Pub knocked down without permission set to reopen

Relaunch comes six years after shocked staff arrived for work to find the Carlton Tavern razed to the ground

Friday, 12th March 2021 — By Tom Foot

carlton exterior new

The ‘new’ Carlton Tavern is set to open April 12

A 100-YEAR-OLD pub unlawfully demolished by a developer who was ordered to rebuild it “brick by brick” will reopen at the end of lockdown.

The Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale is preparing for a grand launch on April 12, six years after it was dramatically knocked down without permission.

Revealing the launch date this week, new licensee Tom Rees told Extra: “It feels like we are making a dream become a reality.”

The owner of the pub, Ori Calif, whose firm CTLX ordered the demolition in 2015, has agreed a lease with Mr Rees and his business partner Ben Martin. The demolition happened just as Historic England was considering awarding the pub a Grade II-listing.

In extraordinary scenes, its former staff turned up to work to find the building razed to the ground. A pint glass was sitting on a table surrounded by rubble and debris. Following a community campaign, Westminster Council took the company to a planning inquiry that forced it to rebuild the pub.

The Carlton’s new interior

Despite the ruling, and the developer’s appeal being rejected, even the most optimistic of the pub’s supporters suspected the company would not follow through with the demands.

But after a come-back story to end all come-back stories, the Rebuild the Carlton Tavern campaign group are preparing for a big party at the pub.

Rob Cope, from the group, said: “We’re delighted that after six long years, our beloved pub is not only rebuilt but about to reopen. We look forward to working with the enthusiastic new management. We can’t wait for April 12 to come.”

The campaign group has described Mr Martin and Mr Rees as a “dream team with the right experience”, adding: “Both are local lads with local connections they have wide experience in running English pubs. What’s more they intend to use local suppliers such as breweries and distilleries.”

Mr Rees and Mr Martin worked in the hospitality industry for years, but this is the pair’s first solo venture since starting their own company, Homegrown Pubs.

The tavern, built in 1920-21 for Charrington & Co was reduced to this pile of rubble in April 2015

The pub was owned by the founder of Pizza Express restaurant chain, Peter Boizou, who died in 2018. He was a big hockey fan and had set up shower cubicles in the basement for the Hampstead and Westminster Hockey Club, which plays at nearby Paddington Rec.

Mr Rees said: “Ben and I are pub people, we love heritage pubs. We know modern pubs are not the same, and it’s really important to protect these assets. But we do want to pull in the crowd from Maida Vale, St John’s Wood and Queens Park. It’s not going to be a swanky bar, but we want to take it in a premium direction.

“The modern pub has become much like a coffee shop, and also food-orientated. It’s also a place to sit and work with good wifi. I think during lockdown we’ve seen how people have realised that they took all that for granted.”

He added: “We’ve done lots of different styles in the past and we found that really you need to let the pub find its own way. There is a path to commercial success, it’s up to a good operator to find what that is. If people want fish and chips, footy and cheap beers, ultimately we will need to move towards that.”

Mr Rees said the pub would show free-to-air sport but this would not be its raison d’être, adding a pool table was a “no-no”.

On the pub’s demolition, Mr Rees said: “It was an error of judgment. But credit to him that he has stuck with it and followed through.

Our report in 2015

“There is an idea to put flats above the pub. But that will all have to go through planning permission. That’s all separate to us.”

On opening a pub in a time of economic uncertainty, he said: “It sounds more mad than it is. There are opportunities that exist. The property market has started to shift, the power has started to shift between landlords and leaseholders. Pubs are now coming up with reasonable conversations about leases. We are incredibly optimistic.”

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