Will latest Holloway Road pub casualty become a chicken shop?
High rent, rates and noise complaints force closure – but brewery could step in
24 March, 2017 — By Joe Cooper
Wig and Gown manager Chris Furphy says he ‘doesn’t know what London wants anymore’
A TOXIC mix of high rents, rates and noise complaints has forced the closure of yet another Holloway Road pub.
Chris Furphy, who ran The Wig & Gown, said he had been “fighting an uphill battle” since taking the pub on four years ago, adding: “I’ve given it a go, but I just can’t do this anymore.”
But it is hoped the pub will not go the way of other struggling boozers in the area, which have been turned into coffee shops or gourmet chicken restaurants, as a “local brewery” is said to have agreed a deal.
A pub has been at 95-99 Holloway Road for decades, but Mr Furphy has consistently said that a troublesome neighbour who consistently complains about noise to Islington Council has made it unviable.
He revamped the pub in the style of a rock bar while still appealing to regulars and Arsenal fans on matchdays, and tried to put on live music to appeal to a new crowd.
But, due to noise laws, the council is duty-bound to investigate all complaints, and Mr Furphy had to cancel all live music. At one point, a complaint was even made about loud cheering when Arsenal had scored.
“The live music had to stop, even the acoustic night, and we just came to a standstill,” Australian Mr Furphy said.
His managers pulled out of the business but he tried to keep it going alone.
“I was still passionate about the place but I’ve been left skint,” he added. “Everyone tried their hardest.”
The pub had its music licence withdrawn under previous management in 2012 after noise complaints.
The “agent-of-change” principle, adopted last year by the government, was introduced to protect music venues by favouring a long-established venue over a new resident or developer who has just moved in.
But Mr Furphy said more needed to be done.
“It’s not good moving in and then complaining,” he said. “Sorry, but the bar was here first.”
London lost more than 30 per cent of its grassroots music venues between 2007 and 2015, falling from 144 to 96.
A recent Creative Industries Federation report argued that the success of the UK’s creative industries is at risk because the night-time economy is under threat from budget cuts, planning policy and noise complaints.
Business rate increases and a sharp rent increase have meant Mr Furphy has been left with little choice but to call time.
“Maybe I could just keep going but I would be living hand to mouth, I’d have nothing to show for it,” he said. “I really don’t know what London wants any more.”
He added: “I don’t mind failing when I’ve had a go and tried my hardest, it’s when outside forces are conspiring to make you fail.”
He called on people to join him at the pub this evening (Friday) and raise a jar as The Wig & Gown marks it final night of trading.
A spokeswoman for Ei Publican Partnerships, formerly Enterprise Inns, said: “We can confirm we have agreed a deal with a local brewery to take over the Wig & Gown, Holloway Road, which will operate under our Ei Commercial Property agreement.
“We would like to reassure the local community that we aim to have the pub reopen as soon as possible.”