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Their London pub has been reduced to rubble. They fought to bring him back.

LONDON – “Your local pub is a lot like your favorite pair of shoes or jeans, something you just take for granted,” said Rob Cope, sitting outside the Carlton Tavern in north London on Monday.

With the glow of the afternoon sun softening the bite of the cold April air, he looked at the brick facade of the building and explained, “You don’t really understand he’s here until you see him. ‘he’s gone.

The Carlton Tavern has joined thousands of other ads Monday when reopening with outdoor spaces as lockdown restrictions in England eased after months of closures. But its story still stood out in this shared national moment, because its closure was not counted in months but in years.

Its story began when the developers demolished it.

Six years ago, people looked in dismay at the Carlton Tavern, built in the 1920s and nestled against a park on the edge of the affluent Maida Vale neighborhood, has been reduced to rubble. The building’s foreign owners had circumvented local laws and abruptly demolished it to make way for luxury apartments.

Outraged, a group of neighborhood activists and local lawmakers fought for years to have the building restored. Eventually, the developers were ordered to rebuild it.

So when glasses were raised and meals were shared outside the red brick building on Monday, patrons toasted a pub that was both new and 100 years old while celebrating the refurbishment of ‘a part of their community and, in some cases, a part of themselves.

Polly Robertson, one of the activists at the heart of the fight, laughed and chatted Monday over fish and chips at the pub with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, floating among groups of activists, the pub’s new owners. and neighbors. The generations of families sitting around her were the reason she fought so hard for this place, she said.

“It’s wonderful to arrive, just to see people that we haven’t seen for a very, very long time,” she said, “not just because of Covid, but because we didn’t have no place to meet us. ”

Prior to the pub’s demolition in 2015, the preservation company English Heritage investigated the Carlton Tavern as it was considered for its historic status. The company recorded the layout of the pub’s rooms and took molds of its distinctive architectural features, so when it was time to rebuild, there was something to work with.

“It’s the same,” Ms. Robertson said.

From the red ocher letters spelling ‘Charrington Sparkling Ales and Famous Stout’ on its brick and tile facade to the brass door handles to the elaborate plasterwork inside, the original charm and character of the pub has been brought to life. recreated.

To some, reopening was like welcoming a long lost friend back. Neighbors compared this space to a common living room where lives had played out and overlapped. They recalled decades of baptisms, birthdays, first communions and revivals held within the walls of the tavern by locals who mostly lived in modest apartments.

Martin Shannon has lived in London since 1965 and raised a family in the area. He came to the pub’s reopening on Monday with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. They stopped to pose for photos in front of the sign and laughed as they shared a treasured memory of their son’s 30th birthday celebration over a decade ago.

“These are the things the system works on, the ideas and standards of ordinary people all the time,” he says, more and more thoughtfully speaking of the temporary loss of the pub. “He should survive anyway, and not be knocked down and knocked down.”

For many, the demolition of the building had been seen as a personal affront. Mr Cope said it was up to someone stealing your favorite pair of shoes.

“It’s like someone is saying, ‘You don’t matter. And your values ​​don’t matter. Your memories don’t matter, ”Mr. Cope said, stopping to adjust his glasses. “It seems very personal to me.”

Behind the pub’s reopening are Tom Rees and Ben Martin, business partners who have a connection to the region and run pubs. They hope to see the Carlton Tavern again in the heart of the community.

“There have been people wandering around in the past, wanting to talk to us, telling us great stories about how they worked here, they drank here, how their parents drank here,” Mr Rees said. “It’s really unbelievable.”

The midst of a pandemic may seem like an odd time to embark on a pub revival business, especially with so many businesses struggling to survive, but Mr Rees believes the extended lockdown has brought new appreciation local spaces like this. Their business, aptly named Homegrown Pubs, focuses as much on local beers as it does on the locals that the owners hope to see return.

“I think the pandemic has forced people to reassess their region and their relationship with it, and all of those good memories they had in those places,” Mr. Rees said.

It seemed appropriate to its new owners that the pub’s renaissance begins 100 years after its founding. The Carlton Tavern opened in 1921 and was one of the few buildings on the street to survive bombing during WWII.

Its location on the border of Kilburn and Maida Vale is also a junction of two London worlds. On an adjacent street, rows of luxury glass and brick apartment buildings face pockets of subsidized housing.

On Saturday, two days before welcoming visitors, the new owners and an army of workers and volunteers, including Ms. Robertson, were putting the finishing touches on the building. Outside, workers shook the dust off their hands as they lifted the latest construction waste into a dumpster, while others tucked inside to prepare the Carlton Tavern for its grand debut.

As Ms Robertson moved between wiping down the wooden bar counter – salvaged from the original tavern – and making fresh juice for the other workers, she reflected on the changes she had seen since arriving in the area In the 1980’s.

For much of the second half of the last century, the neighborhood welcomed waves of immigrants, first from Ireland, then from the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia. Then come the developers and with them the high housing costs that have pushed many people to leave this once diverse and largely working-class neighborhood. But despite this, the community has remained united.

Ms Robertson’s husband grew up in the area and they raised two children there alongside generations of families. Seeing the restored and reopened Carlton Tavern will mean a lot, she said, especially to older residents who have built decades of memories into its red brick walls.

The goal was to save a space where people felt they belonged, in a city that was less and less familiar to them.

“The city can be a very lonely place,” Ms. Robertson said, wiping a dusty film from a mirror behind the bar. “And this is a familiar place. It is their place as much as anything.


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