Queer restaurant and performance space closes its doors

Raptor Room has become the latest space in the city centre to close due to the lockdown.

As Pride Month comes to an end, one of Cape Town’s queer venues, the Raptor Room, has been forced to close its doors.

The restaurant and performance space in Roeland Street had its last hurrah on Sunday June 20.

Raptor Room owner Amy Lilley

Owner Amy Lilley announced the space’s closure in an emotional video and message on Facebook. She said it wasn’t an easy decision.

“This is not the end, just the beginning of something new.

“It has been the great joy of my life to run this safe, queer and inclusive venue for the past four years. I have met the most wonderful and talented people who have brought me so much joy and sense of community.

“Being Queer is more than just a flag or a space, we are a community of individuals full of love, acceptance, uniqueness and bravery. We are unfaltering in our pursuit for happiness, visibility and acceptance, and I truly am so proud to have served you all for these past four years,” she said.

Like many other venues around Cape Town, the Raptor Room had been struggling after the hard lockdown, and the constant changes in lockdown regulations.

After performer Nicola Date heard the news of the imminent closure, she started a Save the Raptor Room campaign, aimed to raise funds for the staff who have all lost their jobs, as well as grab the attention of a beneficiary or angel investor, or someone who could buy the space and keep it operating in the same way.

Ms Date had been a patron at Raptor Room for two years, and started regularly performing at the space earlier this year.

“It may appear to be just a restaurant, but it is more than that. It was a safe space for anyone from the LGBTQIA+ community and was welcoming to absolutely anyone else.

“I’ve always seen it as a space for misfits and a space for people to express themselves. It was a way for the queer community to get together in a non-discriminatory way.”

She said the Covid-19 lockdown has left the theatre industry absolutely shattered.

“For us to lose another performance venue, especially a space for independent artists, it is extremely devastating. I, myself, produced shows at the Raptor Room and now I’ve lost my venue. Its hard for me to find somewhere new.”

Ms Date said she decided to help as she had seen the joy and passion the space brings the LGBTQIA+ community.

In a release, Ms Lilley said what made Raptor Room unique was that it was the only venue in Cape Town that united all people from the LGBTIA+ community.

Ms Date appealed to the community to help the front-of-house and kitchen staff, who are now out of jobs. There is also a pregnant staff member – so donations of baby necessities will also be accepted.

For more information, email info@raptorroom.co.za