Pub News – July 2019

You will find most of our regular pub news in the WhatPub Update column but here are some items that merit further comment, some positive, others alas not.

It was good to see the Guardian carry a three page article on pubs in its 30 June edition. There were no great revelations in it but it was encouraging to see the subject covered. My one objection was to CAMRA being described as ‘doomsayers’. We just tell it as it is.

The Grade II-listed Angel at Hayes End has been sold to the Hayes Muslim Centre who plan to convert it into a community hub which will also be used for religious services. They paid in excess of what had been the previous asking price for the freehold.

Excellent news regarding the Chelsfield in Bromley. By way of explanation, I give you two quotations from the local newspaper, the News Shopper. The first comes from the Planning Inspectorate’s inspector, Katie McDonald, “The existing public house is an important community facility and provides a wide range of activities to the residents with local groups and music bands convening on a regular basis. There are also no other public houses within walking distance of the site, the nearest being around 1.4 km away. I have significant concerns regarding the compatibility of uses, and the protection of the living conditions of future residents may severely compromise the activities and operation of the future public house, such that it would not be able to provide the same facilities and opening hours as the Chelsfield.” Next is from Punch/PML’s managing director, Andy Spencer, who said the company recognises the strength of local feeling, adding, “We fully respect the decision and look forward to building the business in its current guise. We understand the points made by the planning inspector and recognise the local feeling toward the pub. In fact we welcome this show of support from the local community and feel confident that the Chelsfield will have a successful future, welcoming customers old and new.” The ‘Save the Chelsfield’ campaign group were, understandably and rightly delighted, thanking their supporters, councillors, the local MP, CAMRA and the local community. Congratulations to them. They have issued the following challenge to Punch/PML: “We call on Punch to talk to us, your customers and loyal community, to find a way forward for the good of all. We welcome any open and transparent dialogue.” Watch this space. . .
Stop press: Bromley Council have listed the Chelsfield as an Asset of Community Value.

As part of their campaign to retain their lease of the Coach & Horses, Soho, Alastair and Hollie Choat organised ‘London’s first nudist pub singalong’ in early June. Singalongs are one of the traditions of the pub which the Choats wanted to preserve but this was definitely something different. According to the Evening Standard, the songs featured included ‘Bare Necessities’ and ‘My Way’. Sadly, even that did not deter Fuller’s, who took possession as planned on 23 June. The pub cannot have been in too bad a state because they reopened it on Saturday 29 June, although the kitchen is currently closed for refurbishment.

The Green Vic, in Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, opened as ‘pop-up’ at the end of June for an initial period of three months. This is a pub with a difference; its owner, Randy Rampersad, told the Daily Telegraph that his aim is for the Green Vic (a pun on the pub in Eastenders) to become the world’s most ethical pub. Everything, says Mr Rampersad, must have some ethical, environmental or social benefit. It will feature such innovations as straws made of wheat stems and toilet paper made of 100% recycled paper, produced by a company called Who Gives a Crap, which donates profits towards sanitation projects around the world. It is also selling one variation of toast beer.

According to the Evening Standard on 24 June, the KPH (Kensington Park Hotel) has been saved. It has reopened after a two year £1 million refurbishment and the new owners, Harcourt Inns, say that it will remain a local pub and music venue although they will be adding a restaurant on the first floor.

Renowned music venue the Macbeth in Hoxton is under threat. Following complaints from local residents, Hackney Council is reviewing the pub’s licence. The Council wants the pub, popular with the LGBT+ community, to stop staging live music and change its closing times from 1am to 10pm on weekdays and from 2am to 11pm at weekends. The pub’s directors told the Evening Standard that this would put them out of business and they are trying to negotiate with the Council.

The supermarket chain Lidl are trying again to turn the Porcupine in Mottingham into a supermarket. The pub was purchased by Lidl in early 2014 and was promptly closed. Local campaigners, including CAMRA’s Bromley branch, secured its registration as an Asset of Community Value and Lidl’s planning application, and subsequent appeal, were rejected. First up with his objections is the local MP, Bob Neill, who has written an excellent letter to Bromley Council’s chief planning officer which covers all the bases, not least the dubious nature of Lidl’s attempts to market the property over the last three years – a point that could prove crucial. Let battle re-commence!

After something of a marathon meeting, Brent Council’s planning committee voted against plans to demolish the Queensbury in Willesden. This was achieved by a coalition of ward councillors and residents’ associations, despite the plans being recommended by planning officers. There will however be a public inquiry in August into an appeal against the Council’s decision to reject an earlier proposal. More to come…

Another Wandsworth pub being rejuvenated is the Spread Eagle. Young’s own some adjoining premises and they are incorporating these. The expanded building will include both some hotel rooms and office space to which they will transfer their headquarters.

Another music venue under threat. The owners of the White Hart in New Cross, the Wellington Pub Co, have applied for permission for a ‘Trojan horse’ conversion of the upper floors (currently used as hotel rooms) to flats. The pub is currently licensed to 3am and the manager, Dan Beames, told the Eastlondonlines website that he was concerned that the development would mean the pub would lose its late licence and music licence and, without these, the business would not survive. Mr Beames is asking people to submit objections to the planning application and an online petition gathered over 3,000 signatures in a day. The application is currently showing on the Lewisham Council planning website as ‘registered’. The building is also listed, which adds to the complexity of the case. Hopefully, this is the sort of case where the ‘agent of change’ principle might apply but I’m not sure how this works when the owners appear to be trying to put their own pub out of business.

New entrants to the pub trade, Amtel Sheem Ltd, have reopened both the William Morris at Merton Abbey and the Woodman in Wimbledon Park. There were doubts about the future of both of these pubs. The William Morris was a casualty of the Faucet Inn saga and the site of the Woodman was part-used for development. It is good to see them both reopen and, with the latter, it is also reassuring to come across some developers who keep their word. We wish Amtel Sheem every success.