While there have always been a small handful of gay watering holes in Vauxhall, it was only when Troy Weir decided to expand his small empire and open up a smart & sophisticated spot right next to Area on Albert Embankment that Vauxhall became a little more than just a cabaret, clubbing & fetish paradise, Barcode very much offering a place for people to meet & greet, socialise & schmoose, as well as drink & dance. And from the very start back in 2006, it pretty much transformed this south of the river slice of the scene, adding an air of acceptance that had been missing from a closeted community that were still hiding behind blackened out windows & covered up club entrances, the opulent glass frontage & signage leaving no one in any doubt that this was somewhere warm & welcoming as well not being afraid to shout a significant statement.
Having pretty much made the place our local from the day of the launch, it hardly seems five years since that enthralling evening when Barcode first threw open its doors, such has been it success and the bread & butter nature with which it settled into the scene. Indeed, not a Thursday would go by when we were down on Albert Embankment, social schmoosing at one of the bars longest running club nights, Industri, the night & (in a way) Barcode very much responsible for our very existence. But the brilliance of Barcode went much further than that, so, along with Industri, it has cemented some of the firmest friendships we have to this day, has introduced us to a wealth of D.J. talent and form many a week, month & year, been a superb stepping stone to club outings across the capital, not to mention hosting some exceptional events in its own right. And when it comes to celebrating Barcode’s birthday’s we have been there with our (proverbial of course!) knobs on, the 3rd anniversary pretty legendary, not least for the images of our prancing that were projected here there & everywhere.
However, as always seems to be the case of late, we find our devotions being torn between events, this last Saturday being no exception as we had made a commitment to Casa Latina, leaving a gaping gap in the coverage of Barcode’s 5th birthday. But fear not, as having taken on the services of our “Secret Squirrel” undercover reviewer a few weeks ago, we once again drew on his support, sending him into the anniversary audacity to report back and this is what he had to say.
“…Arriving at 11 p.m. I was somewhat surprised to find the front bar probably only about half full. So, having bumped into a small bunch of friends, we all moved down into the back room where Gonzalo was D.J.’ing, this bit of Barcode much busier than the other. However, not being able to drink left me a little bit out of sorts, especially as some of my friends were indulging a little bit too much, others also quite sozzled, bumping into me as the bar got busier & busier. By midnight the back space was really full, although to be honest, wasn’t feeling very birthday like, save for the occasional ticker tape explosions that showered down, no sign of dancers, stage shows or production that shouted “anniversary, birthday or celebration”. So, with Lovebox the following day calling along with a Sunday brunch date, I decided to call it a day at around 2 p.m., indeed with no sign of someone, a message was sent saying, “missed you, did you come out of a cake?”, realising that, in stepping outside I may have missed him, that & something else. However, the reality was that, while it was a busy night, it didn’t feel like anything special, the event not building to any point and I walked away wondering what all the fuss had been about….”
Well, it certainly seems from our SS’s assessment that, for some reason, there seems to be an undercurrent of unwillingness of the team to push the envelope with events like this, compared with when the venue opened, it being clear to us that Barcode finds itself in a current crisis of faith, having sold of its Soho sister to concentrate all efforts on the Vauxhall operation, but seemingly letting an important milestone pass with little or no fanfare. Yes, there have been some very positive developments of late, not least the marrying of minds with Area next door, making Beyond’s “Super Size” parties the huge success that they are and there is much effort going into reinvigorating the Sunday sessions which we loved so much, but with the demise of Industri and the disappearance of Soho has left us scratching our heads somewhat, begging the question, where next for Barcode? Well, a reshuffling of middle management is still very much in its infancy and we are expecting great things from the new team, but it is clear that further injection of ideas, of enticements & moreover, capital, is what s required to secure Barcode’s future in Vauxhall. There is definitely a market place for the bar, it is just a question of whether it can continue to survive on the one night in the week that it is busy enough to justify its existence, although all that said, given how much of an important cog it is in the clubbing circuit, we will be continuing to support it where we can and hope you will too. (DISCO MATT)