Being well-connected online sometimes pays off. Shortly after the post I made yesterday, I was followed on Twitter by somebody who owns a group of pubs, amongst them, The White Hart.
Here is a slightly cut down version of why there is a proposed name change for The White Hart and why the White Hart is planning to close and re-open as The Tommyfield:
* The White Hart is a very large modern space on a very busy junction. The primary argument for retaining the name would be that it is a wonderful old pub, and changing it's name would be like ripping its soul out. However, it's not felt that this is a strong argument re. The White Hart due to the fact that the pub's original interior has not been retained.
* In order for a pub to thrive, it needs a very distinct identity, in order to differentiate itself from the multitude of pubs in the area and draw people from further afield. "The White Hart" is apparently the fourth most popular pub name in the country. The owners think it makes sense for a pub to have a unique name to mark it out. A name change is recognised not to make a pub better, but it's one change among many that can galvanise a business. The White Hart will change on a multitude of fronts, and a new name is the single most direct way of communicating this change.
* The pub is in need of more significant refurbishment than originally anticipated and considerable income needs to be generated to facilitate this. Unfortunately, turnover at The White Hart has been in decline for several years (partly due to its own shortcomings. Consquently, the owners have had to take a "hard-nosed commercial view on the issue". Pubs have come under enormous pressure in recent years: the smoking ban, ever-increasing duty on alcohol, big business rate rises, escalating cost of good quality meat & fish, rising minimum wage etc etc. All of this squeezes profit margin and forces the focus to be on creating the most appealing pub possible.
The question for local SE11 residents, of course, is whether what makes a pub appealing to the general public is the same as what makes it appealing to them?
Cllr Mark Harrison has commented on the previous post on the issue of extending licencing hours that, 'The Doghouse and the Little Apple both have 1am licences on Fridays and Saturdays. People who want to object [to the extension of hours] will need to demonstrate that problems will result from the extension. Objections from the immediate neighbours of the White Hart will carry the most weight.'
On a related note... Please do check out a wonderful photo blog here, as somebody has painstakingly photographed a number of open (and closed) pubs in the Kennington and North Lambeth area, in what should prove a useful historical record (if pub closures continue at such a steady rate).
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