Discover London | Soho
Soho is an area of the City of Westminster and part of the West End of London. Long established as an entertainment district, for much of the 20th century Soho had a reputation for sex shops as well as night life and film industry. Since the early 1980s, the area has undergone considerable transformation. It now is predominantly a fashionable district of upmarket restaurants and media offices, with only a small remnant of sex industry venues.
Soho is a small, multicultural area of central London; a home to industry, commerce, culture and entertainment, as well as a residential area for both rich and poor.
It has clubs, including the former Chinawhite nightclub; public houses; bars; restaurants; a few sex shops scattered amongst them; and late-night coffee shops that give the streets an “open-all-night” feel at the weekends. Many Soho weekends are busy enough to warrant closing off of some of the streets to vehicles; Westminster Council pedestrianised parts of Soho in the mid-1990s, but later removed much of it, apparently after complaints of loss of trade from local businesses.
Record shops cluster in the area around Berwick Street, with shops such as Blackmarket Records and Vinyl Junkies. Soho is also the home of London’s main gay village, around Old Compton Street, where there are dozens of businesses thriving on the pink pound.
On Valentine’s Day 2006, a campaign was launched to drive business back into the heart of Soho. The campaign, called I Love Soho, was created by marketing manager Prannay Rughani (who also heads up the Paramount Pictures licensed multi-million pound Cheers bars in Europe, and in addition, the Soho Clubs and Bars Group), and features a web-site (www.ilovesoho.co.uk). The campaign was launched at the former Raymond’s Revue Bar in Walkers Court made famous by its strip licence and neons, with such celebrities in attendance as Charlotte Church, Amy Winehouse and Paris Hilton. I Love Soho is backed by the former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, the Soho Society, Westminster Council and Visit London.
Gerrard Street is the centre of London’s Chinatown, a mix of import companies and restaurants (including Lee Ho Fook’s, mentioned in Warren Zevon’s song “Werewolves of London”). Street festivals are held throughout the year, most notably on the Chinese New Year.