THERE’S this thing when a pub close to your home shuts down. You lament the closing of another north London battle cruiser. You tell everyone there’s too many estate agents and charity shops everywhere. Then somebody asks you when the last time you went to your local was. And it’s then you realise you can hardly remember when, and with a guilty look you reply: Oh, um, oh, that time your folks came down that Sunday, when was that, and we had a roast. It was ok.
The trend of liking the idea of having a cosy pub on the corner but never actually using it will not save the pumps. It’s sort of like liking the idea of national newspapers but never paying to read them.
It can’t be an uncommon guilty plea, though. There are about 20 pubs in London and Brighton, my university town, I’d be extra-sad to see close, simply because they were the backdrop for different stages of life. Yet, truth be told, I no longer support them with many pennies and pounds of my own these days. Most of us cut old favourite pubs to the wind at some stage, hoping little more than warm sentiment – and simply liking the idea of the pub being there – will guide them through tough times.
What was certainly sad over Christmas, however, was the closure of a pub that people were not simply always meaning to go to. People actually did go to the Crown and Goose in Arlington Road. It was the secret pub off the high street that wasn’t a secret. Quite trendy in fact. Finding a seat in that place sometimes was like some holy grail, such was its popularity.
So, whatever the masterplan for that corner of Camden Town now, it just feels odd to send in a bulldozer to this happy lantern, smashing down something that works and destroying rooms where friends were made, blind dates met and glasses clinked with good cheer. And surely it was still a going entity too, a thriving business – not a sleeper pub which time and trends had caught up on.
There is probably a way of making more money on every corner site in London with some re-ordering and revamping, bulldozers and rebuilds, but the figures on spreadsheets do not account for the laughter you’d hear whenever you passed by somewhere like the Crown and Goose on a summer evening, nor people’s personal connection to the one-off venues in their neighbourhoods. You may remember the story of the customer who booked the Crown and Goose for her pet dog’s birthday party.
As much as spicy chicken sells, people don’t have that kind of affection for a particular branch of chain restaurants like Giraffe or Nando’s, and if you look at the hole on Delancey Street now, a venue of that nature is the sort of the thing that would now fit into the crater.
That crater has actually been there since they knocked down the neighbouring snooker club, itself of a certain creaky charm, in the start of the overhaul. It left the C&G as an island, almost staring at the construction site that would one day swallow it too.
And yet there was a moment, more than once, when you wondered whether the final day would ever come. The spirited fight to stay has been a saga of almost a decade in the making. The council tried to defend it. Celebrities signed petitions. Heck, punters who went there every week signed petitions. We did photo calls outside. There were planning appeals.
But eventually the developers, like some sort of harsh war of attrition, finally got the permission they needed. A digital countdown board to its closure ticked menacingly on the wall. And the pub they couldn’t close, they surely shouldn’t have closed, closed
— Grace Caffrey (@Grace_Caffrey) January 7, 2014