Famed restaurant chain Balans Soho Society is set to re-open five of its London sites this week under their original ownership, in some welcome good news for the city's LGBTQ scene.
Fears for the future of the beloved chain, which was founded in the heart of London's gay scene on Old Compton Street over 30 years ago, were sparked in May when it was revealed that all seven of its sites had been put on the market as the effects of the coronavirus lockdown began to be felt.
However, Attitude can exclusively reveal that Balans founder David Taylor has kept ownership of the brand, and will bring the majority of the chain's sites back with the same team from this Thursday (30 July).
Those include both Balans' Soho cafe bars, Balans No. 60 and Balans No. 34 on Old Compton Street, as well as Balans High Street Kensington, Balans Shepherds Bush and Balans Stratford.
Sadly, Balans Ealing and Balans Victoria will not be re-opening following the coronavirus lockdown.
In a statement, Mr Taylor said: "We’re delighted to be back and can’t wait to see the familiar friendly faces return to our reopening restaurants – both our customers and our team.
"For all restaurants this has been a dark and stormy mountain to climb but the team are buzzing to bring the Balans spirit back."
Balans began life in 1987 as a sandwich shop on Old Compton Street, quickly becoming a local LGBTQ staple famed for brasserie-style food and drink offerings served from breakfast right through until the early hours.
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Guess the year this Balans pic was shot! 📸 Call out too - if you have any archive Balans photos or stories stretching back to when we started in 1987 as the Old Compton Cafe please send them to us [email protected] as we’ve been having too much fun over the years to remember to take many. 🥳 . . . . . #vintagesoho #oldschool #balans #photography #london🇬🇧 #classicrestaurant #oldcomptonstreet #londonhistory #streetphotography #archive #history #goodtimes #mischief
Balans stresses that opening times will be "will be evolving" under the unusual circumstances the hospitality industry currently finds itself in, and the brand is encouraging returning customers to check for up-to-date information online.
To celebrate the chain's return, Balans has created special Porn Star Martini for the month of August as a perk with the government's ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ sheme, which offers diners a 50% discount of up to £10 per diner on food or non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 3 and 31 August.
Anyone using an Eat Out to Help Out voucher at a Balans will be entitled to an extra shot of champagne for the price of a normal Porn Star Martini (a breakfast mocktail version of which is also available, naturally...)