Rebuilt Carlton Tavern will be 'heart of the community' say hopeful landlords
- Credit: Paul Barlow
The final touches are being put to the much-vaunted rebuild of the Carlton Tavern — and a pair of would-be landlords are looking to have it running again as a pub as soon as possible.
Five years after developer CLTX brought in the bulldozers, only to be slapped with an enforcement notice demanding the Maida Vale building be rebuilt brick-by-brick, Tom Rees and Ben Martin of Homegrown Pubs are looking to complete talks to take on the pub's lease in the next few weeks.
Applications for a premises license and for planning permission to the installation of an extractor for the pub's kitchen have been lodged with Westminster Council, which has worked to support the pub's rebuild and reopening since taking enforcement proceedings to ensure CLTX's illegal demolition was remedied.
CLTX demolished the building without planning permission, only to then apply for permission to build flats on the site. Westminster Council enforcement action was upheld at a planning inquiry, and it was ordered that the pub was rebuilt in "facsimile".
Tom and Ben have begun speaking with the locals who have been campaigning — and hoping — for the pub's eventual reopening, and the plan is to hold a relaunch party when the pandemic allows.
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Between them they have worked in a host of north London pubs including the Spaniards Inn and the Garden Gate in Hampstead.
Tom explained why they had been drawn to the project.
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"From our perspective, clearly we've come in right at the end," he said. "We are very grateful to all the people like Polly [Robertson] who have made the pub a viable opportunity. I live in the area, Ben grew up here, and we both felt this whole area is going through a massive regeneration.
"It's changing and this is a massive opportunity. And as much as it's nice to bring the pub back, it is just a great opportunity, too.
Ben said they are keen to put the community at the heart of the pub.
"In the pubs we've run previously, it's always been a big focus to be part of the community," he said. "Running this on our own, this is our opportunity to really live those values."
He said that, when they are able to sign on the dotted line and finally open up, selling local products would also be a key part of the pub's offer.
The pair said that as much as CLTX had made a mistake in demolishing the pub, it had been supportive of their plans to take on a lease now.
"The landlords have been really supportive of us. They want us to be a long-term success."
Tom and Ben also commented on the council's commitment to seeing the pub reopen, and said they were looking forward to making a success of the Carlton.
Both men knew and worked with David Nichol, former landlord of the Spaniards. Ben said his friend's sad death had been another motivation.
"It's part of the reason we got all in on this project. Sometimes it makes you realise life is short, and I wanted to channel the grief into something positive," he said.
Cllr Geoff Barraclough (Lab, Maida Vale) and Polly Robertson from the Rebuild The Carlton Tavern group have both been in touch with Tom and Ben about their plans.
Cllr Barraclough said: "I’m absolutely delighted that Tom and Ben are going to re-open the Carlton Tavern. This is the first bit of good news for the hospitality trade since last February."
Polly, who has led the community campaign for the Carlton's reopening, tweeted: "Great news. Pub will be re opening early in the new year. Will keep you all posted on progress and opening night."
Cllr Matthew Green, Westminster's planning chief, said the council had delivered on its promise to ensure the rebuild.
He added: "As the works near completion, the pub delivers a message of hope, as it is set to return to its rightful role in the heart of the community."
He said the successful rebuild would also be a "a warning to unruly developers that in Westminster, we will not tolerate the kind of vandalism that led to the demolition of the pub in the first place".
Cllr Green continued: "I hope that I will soon be able to join locals for their first post-lockdown pint in the newly rebuilt Carlton Tavern.”