Chalkmarks Is time being called on famous Fleet Street pubs?

FLEET Street’s famous pubs have witnessed hundreds of years of history but could be “lost forever” due to Covid restrictions, warns CAMRA.

The alarm needs to be raised to protect and support heritage pubs before they “fall through the cracks,” says the boss of the beer campaign group. 

The Old Bell Tavern, built by St Paul’s architect Sir Christopher Wren, and a licensed premises for almost 350 years, has been shut since lockdown in March.

With many nearby offices still closed and a huge decline in tourists visiting London this year, the Ye Olde Cock Tavern and the Old Bank of England also remain closed. 

More than 3,640 pubs across London are affected under the recent Tier 2 restrictions, with 143 being in the City of London, according to figures from real estate adviser, Altus Group.

Campaigners The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is calling for financial aid before these historic pubs are lost for good.

Chief executive Tom Stainer said: “If we are not careful, these very valuable pubs will fall through the cracks. 

“We are highly concerned about the entire the pub industry and these gems of pubs that have survived years of history, to see them close would be a huge loss.

“It’s a struggle to raise awareness but we need to raise the alarm before they are lost. They could receive targeted support because of their cultural heritage.

“I hope if they don’t reopen there’s a plan to protect them. You get pubs closing down, no-one notices and before you know it the bulldozers move in or they are ripping up the inside.

“CAMRA is lobbying hard: Pubs are being singled out and have been hit hard. They have been handed more restrictions and no support. 

“Pubs have been a part of our culture for as long as we can remember. They are landmarks and written about in literature and televisions soaps. They tend to form the backdrop of our lives. We can’t lose something so important. The capital is home to many heritage pubs with long, rich histories that have been vital to British culture for centuries, and they need financial aid before we risk losing them for good.”

Robert Hayton, head of UK property tax at the Altus Group, said: “Restrictive measures which adversely impacts trade, already at far lower levels than before the pandemic, without any discerning targeted support, could be the death knell.”

When Fleet Street was home to the nation’s newspapers, it was said more work was done in its pubs than its offices. While most newspapers left in the late 1980s, the Reuters news agency remained until 2016 when its last two Fleet Street reporters moved out.

The great British pub has four main ancestors: taverns came from the Romans and sold wine, the coffee house was a social space for people to meet and drink, ale houses were private houses where women opened up their front rooms to sell alcohol, and inns also offered rooms for people to stay before they travelled onwards.

Dr Samuel Johnson’s house is in a courtyard just behind the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one of the London’s original pubs and famous for its now stuffed parrot Polly, looking down on the bar. Other literary names associated with the street – parts of which were build by Sir Christopher Wren – include Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens.

A notice on the website for the Old Bank of England reads: “We are sorry to say that our pub is closed until further notice.”

A spokesman for Ye Olde Cock Tavern said it plans to reopen.

Mitchells & Butlers, which owns The Old Bell Tavern, said: “A decision on when to reopen the Old Bell Tavern remains constantly under review.”

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