Gay bathhouses in the United Kingdom
There are multiple gay bathhouses, in the United Kingdom. In the UK the term used is "gay sauna" as opposed to gay bathhouse, the term more commonly used in North America. There are gay saunas throughout the UK, with London having most of them. Among the more noteworthy are Chariots Shoreditch, in Shoreditch, London, and Pleasuredrome, South London and Sweatbox in Soho, London.
Chariots Leisure Ltd has opened the following gay saunas: Chariots Shoreditch, Chariots Streatham (1999), Chariots Limehouse (2002, previously Sailor's Sauna), Chariots Waterloo (2003, previously Wellingtons Health Club) and Chariots Vauxhall (2005). Chariots Farringdon (opened 1999) closed in 2010 due to the Crossrail development. In terms of floor-space and capacity, Chariots Shoreditch is the largest gay sauna in the UK.
Chariots Shoreditch is on three floors decorated in the style of Roman baths.
- On the ground floor is the main entrance with several areas of customer lockers, main shower room, TV lounge with bar/cafe, vending machines, internet area and an inclusive gym with several work-out machines.
- The first floor houses a maze of free private cabins of various sizes including orgy rooms and an extensive dark maze (pitch black orgy room and set of cabins).
- The second floor has a swimming pool, poolside loungers, two whirlpools (jacuzzis), two steam-rooms, a hot dry sauna, showers, glory-hole cubicles, a second smaller dark room, outside private smoking area and a porn video/orgy room.
Chariots Roman Spa opened in 1997. The management previously ran Rio's, a Kentish Town naturist club. Originally a warehouse, the Shoreditch redevelopment cost £2.5 million. In 2000 the venue was significantly expanded with the addition of the restaurant, 30 more cubicles, video lounge and internet room.
Customers are given two towels, a locker key and condoms on entrance. Further condoms are available from wall dispensers. Most people keep the second towel as a dry spare in their locker. The convention is to walk around the bathhouse wearing a towel, though nudity in the dry or steam sauna is normal. Apart from the lounge, cafe area, lockable cabins and within the jacuzzi, sexual activity may occur anywhere, with anyone free to watch or attempt to join in.
There was significant press interest and internet speculation in 2006 when the sauna was closed for Easter Weekend, after a 24-year-old man's body was found. The police investigation found that death was due to a drugs overdose but there were no suspicious circumstances.
On Sunday 20 March 2011 the London Fire Brigade were called to attend a fire which was reported to have destroyed most of the ground floor of Chariots Shoreditch. 150 patrons were evacuated, and there were no injuries.
Pleasuredrome is a gay sauna in south London, in the arches below Waterloo East railway station on the corner of Cornwall Rd and Alaska Street. It markets itself as "We never close" and is open every day of the year and is also licensed to sell alcohol 24 hours per day.
Customers are given two towels, a locker key and condoms on entrance. While it is etiquette to wrap in a towel while moving around the premises, nudity in the dry sauna or steam room is normal. Inside the sauna area sexual activity may be present and others may wish to watch or try to join in. Privacy at this venue is afforded by private rooms., This venue actively promotes condom use reinforced by staff in their interactions with the clientele to promote safer sex. The venue has a drugs-free, smoke-free policy.
The sauna is set in railway arches, a building method employed as land prices in large English cities increased. The sauna opened as a gay bathhouse in 1998. In 2006 there was claim by an 18 year old male that he had been raped at the sauna by a 24 year old man while visiting the sauna. "With the full co-operation of the management and patrons, the suspect was subsequently identified and arrested" the official statement further stated that "A 24-year-old man was taken into custody at Kennington police station where he remains." Police thanked staff at the sauna for their co-operation.
Sweatbox is a gay sauna located in Soho, London's gay village. Sweatbox opened in 2008, and is the only gay sauna in the UK to offer 24hr and 48hr passes, as well as a weekly pass. The sauna also offers annual membership. Sweatbox, being ideally situated in London's gay quarter, Soho, attracts many customers from the pubs, clubs and bars of the nearby gay scene either before or after a night out.
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