This paper offers a pragmatic, principally economic perspective on the body of work analysing the genesis and development of urban ‘gay villages’. The Soho Gay Village in central London is presented as a case study. Its evolution and principal features are considered in the light of the existing corpus of research into gay agglomerations and the documented experiences of some other urban gay villages in England. It is suggested that, even with differing historical roots and widely differing levels and forms of municipal support, a recurrent developmental pattern seems to be discernible. This is characterised by an urban area in decline progressing through several broad stages of economic enterprise denoted by: sexual and legal liminality; gay male social and recreational opportunities; a widening service-sector business base; and, ultimately, the assimilation of the area into the fashionable mainstream.