Pub news – May 2020

Academy, Notting Hill: the lesson here is that property developers never give up. Back in 2015, the then owners, Wellington Pub Company, unsuccessfully challenged the pub being listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). Wellington have since sold the pub to a company called Kingscastle or, at least, Kingscastle are the company who have submitted the latest planning application. The new proposals are for the creation of five flats although they appear to include retaining some sort of bar or dining space. As we know well enough now, that rarely leads to a satisfactory outcome. Local community group the Norland Conservation Society have renewed the ACV and are determined to oppose the application.

Alexandra, Wimbledon (Photo: Michael Flynn, South West London CAMRA)

Alexandra, Wimbledon: I have reported before on the Alex’s work, particularly at Christmas. To help in the current crisis, landlord Mick Dore and his team have been supporting a project run by the Old Wimbledonian’s Association to provide meals for local NHS workers and vulnerable local adults. The project has delivered some 15,000 meals, of which the Alex, a Young’s pub, has contributed 4,000. Two other nearby Young’s pubs, the Rose and Crown in Wimbledon Village and the Leather Bottle in Earlsfield have also contributed. The Alex’s contribution was acknowledged by being featured on BBC TV’s the One Show on 12 May. Congratulations from us as well.

Bell & Crown, Kew (Photo: Paul Charlton, West London CAMRA)

Bell & Crown, Kew: Fuller’s (the pub company) have upset their neighbours at this riverside pub. They installed a new conservatory on the river frontage but did not obtain planning permission first and Hounslow council have refused to grant retrospective permission. The Strand on the Green Residents’ Association (SoGA) has asked Fuller’s not to appeal against the Council’s decision but to simply remove the offending structure. As quoted in the website, they wrote to Fuller’s saying, “Local residents have vigorously expressed their astonishment that a reputable and long term Chiswick company of Fuller’s standing should have authorised the installation of such an insensitive structure at the Bell & Crown on the historic river frontage, totally out of character with the Strand on the Green Conservation Area and at a time when they are about to move into their new headquarters in Pier House, one of the finest local office buildings.” When I checked Hounslow’s planning website (mid May), no appeal had been lodged. Pier House, Fuller’s new offices, is also in Strand on the Green, only more down towards Chiswick.

Clarence, Stoke Newington: the Yummy Pub Company have sold the lease of the Grade II-listed Clarence in Stoke Newington to Robert Shaw, who operates the renowned Anchor & Hope in The Cut, SE1 plus two pubs in Oxford. The freeholds of both the Clarence and the Anchor & Hope are owned by Charles Wells. Yummy still have three pubs in London plus one in Surrey and are looking to use the cash generated to acquire further freehold pubs. That, of course, may now have to wait.

Lord Moon of the Mall: this is one JD Wetherspoon’s pub that will not be reopening at any time. The freehold of the premises, originally built in the 1870s for bankers Messrs Cocks Biddulph & Co, was acquired in 2015 by McMullen’s of Hertford. This was over the head of JDW who had opened the pub in 1995. JDW’s lease has now come to an end and, as permitted by Section 30 (1)(g) of the 1954 Landlord & Tenant Act (see also page 33), McMullen’s have refused JDW a new lease and will reopen the pub as their own tied house. This is the same situation as occurred with Fuller’s over the Old Bank of England in Fleet Street. Ironically, as mentioned in the February/March edition, a new JDW outlet will be opening almost opposite the Old Bank of England, also in a former bank. The opening has, inevitably, been delayed but will be reported as and when.

The Lord Moon on the Mall (Photo: Paul Charlton, West London CAMRA)

The same Section 30 situation occurred in 2017 with the White Swan in Vauxhall Bridge Road, previously operated by Punch Taverns. Somehow I missed this at the time so apologies for that.

Monarch Bar, Camden Town: this music venue, originally converted from a car showroom by Wetherspoon’s in 1993 but sold in 2004, has recently closed. It has been acquired by ZX-Ventures whose website says ‘We have a mandate from Anheuser-Busch InBev to nurture, support, and grow the products and services of tomorrow.’ As far as I can ascertain, they will be reopening the premises as some sort of showcase for the various craft beer breweries that AB InBev own around the world. Including Corona, I wonder?

Squirrel, Maida Vale: the latest proposals put forward by the Cowell Group (TCG), to turn the pub into a pharmacy, were rejected by Westminster City Council in early March. As reported in the local newspaper, the Ham and High, the council’s chief planning officer said that the pub’s loss ‘would be to the community’s detriment’ and that the latest proposals ‘would fail to preserve or enhance the setting of the neighbouring Maida Vale Conservation Area’. It is understood that TCG have lodged an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate but there were no details on the Council’s planning website when I checked.

Station, Knebworth: not in London, I know, but a story worth reporting. The pub, opposite the station, as you might guess, dates from 1883 and is a historic landmark. Given that it is the village’s only pub, it is also a valuable community asset. Greene King however closed the pub in 2017. Happily, after a three year campaign, it was recently purchased by the local parish council for the princely sum of £595,000, assisted by a loan from the Public Works Board. The pub had reopened before the current crisis. Should you wish to investigate in due course, the train journey is 37 minutes.

White Swan, Charlton: alas, this is not such a happy story. The pub, one of two in Charlton Village, was sold to Isle of Man based property developers Mendoza by Punch Taverns in 2015 for £900,000. An application to build a three bedroom house at the back of the pub was submitted in June 2017 but was refused by Greenwich Council and Mendoza’s appeal was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate. The Charlton Society had managed to have the pub listed as an Asset of Community Value and the pub stayed open, having been taken over by the same people who run the Pelton Arms in East Greenwich. It was popular, with events such as live music and beer festivals, and it was particularly popular with supporters of Charlton Athletic. The pub however closed suddenly in early March. The local news website, the Charlton Champion, suggested that the rent charged by Mendoza had eventually made the business unviable. Another version of the plan to build a house behind the pub was submitted in July 2019 and has still yet to be decided. The access road for the house affects the pub’s garden so the closure of the pub will no doubt now help Mendoza’s case. No plans have yet been submitted for the pub itself but, with the ACV listing having lapsed, it must only be a question of time.

Pubs into shops: I know that this happens with rural pubs but these are the first instances that I have heard of in London. The Thatched House in Hammersmith, a Young’s pub, is offering takeaway food and drink (no draught beer, sadly), a range of basic groceries plus bedding plants and even compost! The licensee, James Fitzgerald, also runs the Duchess in Goldhawk Road which offers a similar service. Mr Fitzgerald commented, “The only thing that we are not doing that I wish we could is newspapers. Everybody wants their newspapers because they are bored.”

Red Lion, Ealing (Photo: Roy Tunstall, West Middlesex CAMRA)

The Red Lion in Ealing, a Fuller’s tied house, is doing something similar but leans more to being a delicatessen. The licensee, Edin Basic, is using his Italian connections to supply such delights as nocellara olives, antipasti, Parma ham and a number of Italian cheeses as well as a range of focaccias which are freshly baked by Mr Basic himself, every morning at 5am. Takeaway draught beer is also available. Mr Basic explained, “It’s not in my nature to stay closed and wait for this to blow over. I just had a real desire to find a way to safely continue to serve my community. I spoke to my team, my business partners and my suppliers and we decided that it was time to bring a piece of Italy back to Ealing again, so we opened the pub as a community store.” The Red Lion is open every day from 10am to 5pm and is operating under full social distancing rules to ensure the safety of customers and team members.

Compiled by Tony Hedger