The longest-serving publican in Birmingham’s gay village – Andy King of The Fox on Lower Essex Street – has received a prestigious award to mark his 25th anniversary at the pub. The award from the pub’s landlords, Star Pubs & Bars, also recognises the contribution The Fox has made to the community over the last quarter of a century. Andy has no intention of “calling time” yet and is now extending his lease in order to clock up a further five years at The Fox.
Nuneaton born-and-bred Andy has played a central role in Birmingham’s gay scene since taking over The Fox 25 years ago. Not only has The Fox provided a safe, welcoming space for LGBTQ+ people, but Andy helped stage the first Birmingham Pride in 1997, and the pub has participated every year. More recently Andy was a co-founder of the campaign to create Birmingham’s HIV and AIDS Memorial and spearheaded the fundraising drive for it.
One of the last remaining Victorian pubs in the gay village, The Fox prides itself on filling the role of a traditional community local offering a friendly meeting place for LGBTQ+ people of all ages and their friends in Birmingham. Known as the ‘little gay bar with the big gay heart’, it nurtures and showcases up and coming LGBTQ+ musicians and entertainers from the area and raises thousands of pounds for local charities and good causes ranging from Birmingham’s Dog home to Macmillan Cancer Support.
Andy discovered his love of hospitality as a boy when he helped out at the working men’s club, where his dad was chairman, and has been in the industry since leaving school.
Says Andy: “Birmingham has changed out of all recognition in a really positive way from when I took over The Fox in 1997. Back then, the windows were covered to prevent hostility towards customers. Now there’s a lot less stigma, and many straight friends of our LGBTQ+ customers enjoy coming with them to The Fox, too. I never thought for a minute I’d be here this long. I’m still loving it, and The Fox and its customers are like a family to me. I’m a traditional licensee at heart and believe pubs fulfill an important social function in supporting the people they serve as well as giving them good times.”
Comments Star Pubs & Bars’ area manager for Birmingham, Jacqueline Frow:
“Andy is a fantastic licensee who is passionate about The Fox. He’s made it a very special place and an asset to Birmingham. It’s an amazing achievement to keep any pub at the top of its game for so long. It’s all down to Andy’s enthusiasm. He cares about his customers and is always adapting The Fox to embrace the latest trends.”