Kensal Rise businessman to reopen closed pub in St John’s Wood

Brothers Ben and Ed Robson outside the Clifton Hotel, Clifton Hill NW8

Brothers Ben and Ed Robson outside the Clifton Hotel, Clifton Hill NW8 - Credit: Archant

A businessman from Kensal Rise has teamed up with his brother to give a closed down pub a lease of new life by reopening it.

Ed Robson, 33, and his 29-year-old sibling Ben have bought a 20 year lease to run the Clifton Arms pub in St John’s Wood, which has been empty for the last three years.

The news will be welcomed by locals who feared the building would make way for housing.

The Hampstead born brothers bring with them a wealth of experience and bags of ideas from managing the Horseshoe Pub in Hampstead together and setting up the successful eatery Boopshi’s in Fitzrovia.

Ed said: “It’s perfect, just what we wanted. There’s a bit more work than we initially thought but we really believe in the project and it will be a great pub again.

“We have to put a new kitchen in, the extraction has to go in, and there are damp issues in the basement that we have to remedy.

“We intend to be here a long time so we want to do it right and start from the ground up.”

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The popular pub is said to be more than 200 years old and believed to have been used by Edward VII to meet Lillie Langtry.

When it was shut unexpectedly in 2013 thousands of residents signed two petitions to save the iconic pub, fearing it would be turned into housing.

Ben, who lives in Belsize Park, said: “We missed the local aspect of running a bar. In truth, we didn’t build up the local business as we did at the Horseshoe and we missed that. We’ve always loved going to the pub and from a young age started working in them.”

After a two year search they saw the pub come up in the market, and having secured the lease from the landlord, will spend up to £500,000 refurbishing it.

Aware of the split within the community with residents of Clifton Hill against a new pub, Ed said: “We’ve worked in sensitive areas before and we’ve run them very well with no complaints and no issues. We’ve talked to the residents and have received a lot of support from people.”

The pub will open towards the end of summer with a “strong menu list” including vegan dishes and traditional gastro pub fare, a “strong wine list”.

The ground floor will have a new look but will retain old features such as the fireplace.

An upstairs bar area will include a “mixture of comfy sofas and bar stools”. Traditional events such as pub quizzes, and cheese and wine nights are also planned.

Ben said: “It’ll be a lot lighter, brighter and feel more spacious than before. It’s such a lovely building I think we can really open it up and play on the space.”

Ed added: “We’re looking at the possibility and the logistics of actually having a small microbrewery down in the basement to brew a beer for the Clifton, which is something we’ve always wanted to do but we’ve got time to think about that. It’ll be local beer for locals made by locals. We’re pushing for the opening first, the sooner the better for us.”