Coach & Horses not ready for a final curtain

Spirit of Jeffrey Bernard lives on, as freeholder Fuller’s says it waits ‘patiently…to run pub’

Friday, 31st May 2019 — By Samantha Booth

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Robert Bathurst stars as Jeffrey Bernard. Photo: Tom Howard

THE defiant landlord of the famous Coach & Horses says he won’t give up his battle to “save” the watering hole with just under a month before a pub chain takeover.

More than 11,000 have signed a petition calling for Fuller’s to halt their plans to not renew Alastair Choat’s lease of the famous Greek Street watering hole.

The brewery, which is the freeholder, is expected to bring the pub into its managed estate on June 23.

The petition says the pub “is one of the last beating hearts that keep Soho’s community together”, adding: “This is what we are trying to protect.”

Mr Choat, who has had London’s first vegetarian and vegan pub for 12 years, said: “It takes a day to win a battle. I have up until June 23 and I won’t stop fighting at this point. I’m not considering what else I will be doing after.”

He added: “It’s incredibly stressful, my life is disappearing because of their attitude. Nobody wants it. I won’t stop until the last day and to be honest with you I may even carry on afterwards.”

The Coach, as it is known, was once run by London’s “rudest landlord”, Norman Balon, and was the setting of the famous Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell play by Keith Waterhouse.

The play has been brought back and staged in the pub since May 7, with actor Robert Bathurst, of Cold Feet fame, playing Bernard.

Alastair Choat: fighting on

Due to popular demand, performances have been extended for another week until June 9. The famous play is based on the real-life journalist Jeffrey Bernard (1932-1997) who is locked in the Coach & Horses overnight.

Mr Choat, who runs the pub with his daughter Hollie, said: “We knew it was going to be amazing and the overall reaction was like ‘wow’.

“Everybody wants to come and see it. I think there’s a great following for the play. ”

He added: “Even if people don’t get all of the references, it doesn’t seem to really matter. It’s funny it’s witty, it’s sad, and it works, it’s great.”

Staff and regulars stripped off earlier this year for a naked calendar to help back the campaign.

It is understood Westminster Council has written to Fuller’s, but they did not respond to the Extra’s request for details.

A new statement from Fuller’s said after it acquired the pub in 2011, a new lease was later granted by the court which expires in June 2019, and added: “And we have been patiently waiting since we purchased it for our time to run the pub. It is an amazing and historic pub in Soho and, when the tenancy comes to the agreed end, it will become one of the gems in our Managed Pubs & Hotels business.

“We intend to preserve all that is great about this pub and protect her future for locals and tourists to Soho alike and we look forward to meeting with, and listening to, the local Soho community when we take the pub on in June.

“The Coach & Horses will outlive us all – and we intend to play a positive part in the next chapter of the pub’s history. We have a proven track record of preserving iconic pubs and of working with long-serving managers with personality and character to match the personality and character of their wonderful pubs – and this will be no exception.”

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