A battle royal is brewing at an award-winning Irish pub in London. The Cock Tavern in Somers Town is locked in a struggle for survival — with local people and regulars opposing moves to have the landlady’s lease terminated. And now RMT union leader Bob Crow has joined the rumpus, throwing his weight behind the campaign to keep the pub open and landlady Sheila Gavigan behind the bar.
Campaign leaders say the pub is “on the frontline of the fight to save inner city communities from regeneration and gentrification” and has been targeted because developers want to join in the projects being carried out in the Euston and King’s Cross areas. The pub was only recently given a community award by the office of the Lord Mayor of London.
Union kingpin Bob Crow has thrown his weight behind a battle to save a working-class Irish pub whose supporters claim is threatened because it is obstructing a multi-millionpound property development in London’s King’s Cross. In a statement released exclusively to The Irish Post Mr Crow said: “The RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) is fully behind the campaign to save The Cock Tavern from being closed down and turned into yuppie flats by some bunch of property speculators registered offshore in the Virgin Islands.”
“Too many working-class pubs in the centre of our workingclass communities have already been driven out of business in the interests of speculative greed. The RMT, as close neighbours and whose members and branches use the pub, is determined to stop that fate befalling the Cock.”
The Cock Tavern in Somers Town only recently received a community service award from the Mayor’s office in London. But it is alleged a two-year campaign has been waged against the pub in an attempt to drive it out of business. The pub, which is home to two separate Celtic Supporters clubs, is being supported by locals who say it represents threatened inner-city communities in the capital. Bob Crow has described the stand-off as a battle between “real Londoners and the money men”.
Solicitors representing Sheila Gavigan say the landlady has 12 years to run on her lease. They told The Irish Post the business — now run as a going concern — has been the subject of unreasonable financial demands. In March, offshore property company Firestrike applied for possession of the property. Their application was rejected and solicitors representing The Cock Tavern have since submitted a counter-claim, which is due to be heard in the London County Court in October.
Ms Gavigan, from Sligo, has run the business since 1999. She said The Cock Tavern was “a community pub for locals” and she “was honoured” to receive a community service award from the Mayor’s office. She said she wants to continue running the business under the terms of her original lease agreement. Since the property was bought by the holding company she has dealt with pub management firm, County Estates.
Instructing solicitor George Scott told The Irish Post the property developer has created a “manufactured debt”, which will “technically” force a breach of the inherited lease agreement. One supporter said locals believe the leaseholder is being “muscled out” because the developers intends submitting a planning application for change of use on the premises.
They could then push ahead with a scheme and follow other regeneration projects being rolled out in the St Pancreas, Euston and King’s Cross areas. But campaigners, customers and supporters say the pub is on the frontline of the fight to save inner-city communities from “regeneration and gentrification schemes”.
The campaign to save the pub has spawned a Facebook page, which has already attracted more than 2,000 supporters in less than two weeks. Vaughan Thomas who is leading the campaign against closure of the pub, said: “Two years ago a massive campaign was successful in preventing the police from taking away Sheila’s licence. Now, despite having 12 years left to run on her lease, the pub’s owners have embarked on a campaign to kick her out. Sheila’s only ‘crime’ is to run a successful working-class pub in an area which is undergoing widespread development and gentrification. The owners want to close the pub and convert it into luxury housing for outsiders. Sheila has managed to turn the pub into a going concern without changing its nature or alienating her customers. It is that very rare thing — a genuine community pub. We can’t allow faceless offshore developers to take away a vital community resource just so they can make millions through property development.”