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Closure of Big Red: Rent rise silences jukebox after 16 years as regulars fight to keep it open

Holloway Road bar will close this month

09 September, 2019 — By Emily Finch

The building in Holloway Road could become a Union Bar, according to Big Red owner

A ROCK bar and live music venue which accepts “everyone who wants to be a little different” is to close its doors after 16 years.

The owner of the popular dive bar Big Red, in Holloway Road, has said he will have to shut later this month after a rent hike by pub landlord Ei Publican Partnerships.

Ben Hudson, who grew up in Kentish Town, opened the bar where hard rock and guitar riffs blare out from the large American-style jukebox when he was just 29 years old. It has 15 members of staff.

“We’re a family here and some of my staff have been here from the first day,” he said. “What’s happening is painful. It’s [Big Red] for everyone who is not the norm. Metalheads can sit next to someone with a mohawk who is sitting next to a glamorous woman in a pin-up dress. Anybody that wants to be a little bit different can come here.”

He said it had been tough balancing the books over the last 16 years, but added: “It’s a labour of love and I love what I do.”

The planned rent hike was something he could “never achieve” when coupled with other costs, including paying business rates and other taxes.

He called on the Town Hall to invest more money in Holloway Road. “It’s been forgotten,” he said. “When Mothercare and Marks & Spencer go you know you’re in trouble. Islington Council only seems to care about investing in Upper Street.”

Ei Publican Partnerships, also known as the Ei Group, plans to turn the venue into a chain bar called The Union, according to Mr Hudson.
He said the outpouring of support he received after announcing the bar’s closure had been “really positive to read”.

Big red fan Katie Muszanskyj who chose a house opposite Big Red as a regular 

“If anyone knows of a similar-sized venue to continue Big Red please let me know,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Ei Publican Partnerships said: “Following the publican’s lease expiring, we are carefully considering our options to determine the future of this pub. Our priority is always to seek the best opportunity for the community.”

Couple engaged at Big Red on day of the closure announcement

James Andrew Lee and his partner Victoria Ross in the booth in Big Red where they had their first date and got engaged last month

A HUSBAND-TO-BE who proposed to his girlfriend at Big Red seven years after their first date at the rock bar in Holloway Road has said “there will be huge space in the hearts of many” when it closes.

James Andrew Lee took his partner, Victoria Ross, to Big Red for their first date in 2012 after meeting on an online site.
“It is by far my favourite London bar,” he said.

“Victoria later told me she’d asked her flatmate to call her an hour into her date to see if she needed an excuse to leave. Thankfully, we ended up drinking and talking for about eight hours, throwing lord knows how much money into the legendary jukebox.”

Mr Lee proposed to his girlfriend last week in the booth where they first met – on the day the bar announced it would be closing. “That was a cruel thing to discover,” he said. He added: “It’s so special to us, having been our original meeting place.”

The ring which Mr Lee Andrew proposed with 

Katie Muszanskyj, who works for rock magazine Kerrang!, said she was “devastated” by the closure. She said: “It’s the top dog here. When I first came to London I came here every weekend and when a flat opposite the bar came up I decided to live there because it would save me Uber fares.”

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