Kings Cross used to be synonymous with its seedy sex industry – street workers, dodgy hotels and a Michael Porter-type cluster of sex shops and the like. The street workers seem to have gone (hopefully to somewhere safer) the hotels are slightly less dodgy now but what happened to the shops? The shops had in some cases been there for what felt like decades, were unmissable as the only brightly lit shop fronts at night and became local landmarks, but not always in a good way. Better council enforcement, regeneration leading to rising rents and increased footfall has meant the shops have been replaced with new forms of mammon. This is undoubtedly a good thing and we have written many times on this site about some of the establishments. But history takes many forms so I thought it worth recording what had replaced the sex establishments of yore as a marker for regeneration.
It’s important to point out that none of the current businesses have any connection at all with their location’s former use.
The infamous Pirate Books in a prime Kings Cross ‘gateway’ location on York Way was finally driven out by determined Islington council action. The site first became a coffee shop and is now a noodle bar.
Pleasure Island was in my opinion essentially a brothel on a prime corner location practically opposite my former flat on the Cally Road. The site is now occupied by an estate agent.
And almost oppostite the former site of Pleasure Island is another estate agent. That site was also a sex shop for a few years, then became a carpet shop.
Breathless was a rubber fetish shop on Kings Cross Road – the unit is now empty but hasn’t been re-let it seems.
At the bottom of the Cally Road was the Bleu Danube and DVD Xtra adult video store, another prime corner location. Now on that site is the Backpacker pub.
Opposite Bleu Danube was several incarnations of shops like Soho Books that moved between premises now occupied by Drink Shop Do (an early flag bearer of grass roots regeneration) and Dash.
And along the side of St Pancras station before that was regenerated were a series of low key shops that for a while included Fettered Pleasures a specialist S&M supplier. I can’t quite recall which unit it was in but it may have been the one in the photo, which is now the Eurostar First Class Lounge – do let me know if i have this wrong.