Pub news – March 2021

Where I give a current description of a pub in this column, it is based on how it used to be, in expectation of it being the same when it reopens.

Alliance, West Hampstead: the private owner of this pub has already converted the upper floors into seven flats and has now submitted an application to Camden Council to convert part of the ground floor into two one bedroom flats. The development would displace the existing kitchen and function room with them both moving to the basement. Regulars and local residents groups are objecting to the plans because they believe that a windowless function room will not be attractive and a basement kitchen could be difficult to operate in a food led pub. A spokesman for the Fortune Green and West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum told the Ham & High newspaper, “The thing about the Alliance is that it’s a pub that does really cater for the West Hampstead community. I have been to funerals, birthday parties, all sorts of meetings there, it’s that sort of pub. We would be very concerned about anything that puts that at risk, and anything that makes it less viable as a pub.” The owner, on the other hand, believes that the changes will make the pub more viable and that, as he told the Camden New Journal, “The creation of two additional residential units accords with the council’s aim of maximising the supply of new housing in the borough.” If the plans were refused then the pub could close. The pub was listed as an Asset of Community Value in 2016 and the Forum, along with the Fordwych Residents Association, will be seeking a renewal.

Black Cap, Camden: this iconic LBGTQ+ venue closed in April 2015 but its supporters, the Black Cap Foundation, commendably continue to lobby for its reopening. The property is an Asset of Community Value and plans for redevelopment have been refused by Camden Council. The situation regarding the ownership is currently unclear but the Foundation hope that a community owned company will reopen it and restore it to its former glory. In the meantime, when allowed, they continue to hold weekly meetings at a local community centre.

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Brewdog & Friends: the Scottish brewery and pub company has acquired the Grade II-listed red brick former London Hydraulic Power Company power station in Wapping with a view to turning it into a brewpub. The provisional name for the project is Brewdog & Friends. It is a large site which was until recently used as an arts project and then an events venue. It dates back to 1890 and was originally steam powered but was later converted to electricity. Much of the original equipment remains in place. It stands opposite the famous Prospect of Whitby pub.

The story of the London Hydraulic Power Company is fascinating in itself and well worth some research. It was a particularly impressive sight when one of their high pressure mains fractured.

Crown, Willesden Green: a curious case. The lease of this pub was inherited by Greene King following their takeover of the Spirit Group. The freehold is owned by the Wellington Pub Company. The pub ceased trading in 2008 and is now in a very sorry state. In November, planning agents acting for Greene King gave notice to Brent Council that the property was to be demolished. The Council refused to accept this because, being a public house, full planning permission is required, not just notice of demolition. This action has presumably been prompted by the lease coming to an end next year because, according to what the planning agents said in their application, the lease requires that the site be handed back in its ‘original state as a clear site’. The procedural issue is unlikely to stop the eventual demolition of the pub, given its state of repair, but it is likely to increase Greene King’s costs considerably.

Dodo micropub, Hanwell: unable to hold a fourth birthday party because of lockdown, the Dodo instead suggested that the Hanwell Massive and other customers donate the money that they would have spent on beer to charity. The nominated organisation is Refuge, the domestic violence charity. This acknowledges the worrying increase in this crime arising from lockdown. If you want to participate, their fundraising page is www.justgiving.com/fundraising/TheDodo-Micropub.  The Dodo ended their Facebook post with the encouraging message ‘Our good times will return!’

Gunnersbury, Chiswick: formerly the John Bull, a music pub popular with bikers, this Chiswick High Road landmark is up for sale at an asking price of £5.3 million. The upper floors have already been converted into five flats and the particulars indicate that it is being sold with a view to further residential development for which planning permission was obtained last May. This involves extending the existing rear extension and adding an additional storey. The also suggest that there is potential for residential development of the ground floor and basement, subject to further planning permission.

King Edward VII, Highams Park: it is not clear when this site, 2 Winchester Road, ceased to be a pub and until two years or so ago it was a double glazing shop, painted in a rather garish colour. All being well, this will change shortly following local wine and craft beer retailers, Vinoramica, obtaining planning permission to turn it into a shop and tasting room, allowing consumption on the premises. They are also planning to create some outside seating areas. There will be no hot food but they will serve bar snacks and cheese and charcuterie plates. This is an expansion of Vinoramica’s existing business. They already have a shop in the Broadway (E4 9LQ) and operate a substantial on-line delivery service for both wine and beer (www.vinoramica.com/shop). In their planning application they said, ‘We are firm believers that having a shared space to drink and socialise safely is a key element in developing community cohesion’ and ‘The intention is to bring the site closer to its original usage and recreate the original character of the building, in a way that is in keeping with the character of the surrounding area’.

Lamb, Holloway: many pubs have launched crowdfunding appeals to help them through the COVID crisis and sadly, we simply don’t have room to list them all. I thought however that this instance was worth a mention because of its unique nature. The Lamb is a music pub and, as reported in the Islington Tribune (16 January), twenty two of the bands that play at the pub decided to help out by producing an album called Hatful of Holloway. The pub’s landlord told the Tribune,I am overwhelmed by the fact that bands and artists from north London who have either played in the pub or have drunk in here have come together to make this. Holloway Road has a rich musical heritage and it is brilliant to be able to in some small way celebrate that.” The pub also featured traditional singalongs on Thursday nights and is popular with Arsenal supporters on match days. Originally the tap for the Highbury Brewery, it was once one of David Bruce’s brewpubs, the Flounder & Firkin. It is locally listed.

Montague Arms, Peckham: this is an imposing corner building which was originally a Truman’s house and it still bears their brown and cream signage. The Monty, as it is known locally, was a significant music venue until, against significant local opposition, it was closed in 2018. It had also held regular LGBTQ+ events. It was then reopened as a comfortable food led operation but has since closed again. It is now in danger of being demolished and replaced by a building twice the height containing nine flats, some office space (Use Class B1) and an area which is said to be a replacement pub. It is however only 100 square metres so might be more suited to a coffee shop or food outlet. As usual, the developers claim that the pub is not viable but have included space for a smaller replacement for its ‘communal value’. Local councillors will be opposing the plan and, in an open letter quoted in the Southwark News, said, “The post-COVID world will need to rebuild our society. Pubs and entertainment are a vital part of restoring social interaction that we’ve lost since the first lockdown. As such, we will be objecting to the planning application to demolish the pub. We will also ask that the decision goes to a planning committee of elected councillors if it is not refused by officers.”

Princess Royal, Brentford: Fuller’s have closed this pub permanently. It is up for sale but there is no evidence to support the local rumour that it was being sold to Tesco’s. Between 2005 and 2010 the pub was leased by Brentford Football Club whose Griffin Park ground was famous for having a pub at each corner; the Princess Royal was one of them. Brentford left there for the new Community Stadium near Kew Bridge at the start of the current season and Fuller’s believe that the pub is no longer viable because it is too far away for supporters to continue using it. Planning permission has been granted for Griffin Park to be redeveloped as housing, incorporating an open space the size of the former football pitch. If the residents of the new development need a pub then they are not too far from the Black Dog Beer House, Richmond & Hounslow CAMRA branch’s current Pub of the Year.

Star, Upper Holloway: we have been notified by the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum that they have succeeded in having the pub listed as an Asset of Community Value. The pub, formerly the Totnes Castle, is primarily food-led but serves a rotating range of real ales and also stages music sessions and other entertainment.

Sydney Arms, Lewisham: this pub was closed some ten years ago and was extended and converted into sixteen flats in 2015. According to the London News Online website (11 February), it was purchased in January as accommodation for rough sleepers by Lewisham Council using funds from the Greater London Authority’s Rough Sleeper Accommodation Programme.