Old White Bear to reopen by Christmas – ‘The good news Hampstead needs’
- Credit: Archant
The Old White Bear is set to reopen for Christmas, with the Hampstead pub’s “rebirth” hailed as “one of the great comeback stories”.
Closed since 2014, the Well Road favourite has been taken on by Leeds Brewery after years of campaigners fighting to save the free house.
Building works began this week to restore the pub, with the owners planning to welcome punters by the end of November.
Landlord Sam Moss said he was “massively, massively excited”. “We want to reopen it as a pub at the heart of the community, a proper boozer,” he said.
“We'll do some food as well but it’s going to be very, very much a pub.”
Of the drinking hole’s history, having faced threats of development since its closure, Sam said: “Looking back at articles that have been written, campaigns that have been run... there is an incredibly strong feeling that the community is absolutely behind the pub, and that is enormously important.
“To run a campaign for a year is difficult, to run a campaign for seven years is absolutely amazing.
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“So we just can't wait until we can get the doors open and welcome people back in to have a beer.”
Guy Wingate, who spearheaded community efforts to stave off proposals for housing on the site, told the Ham&High: “It's enormous because we never gave up hope.
“It’s huge. Honestly I think getting the Old White Bear back is the good news that Hampstead needs. It’s fantastic.”
Having helped safeguard the pub by successfully applying for it to become an asset of community value (ACV), and then retaining the protected status five years later, Guy said the long slog was all now worth it.
“For me the best bit is that all the local community’s passion and support... putting up with us sending out emails badgering people for help... it’s all been rewarded now.
“It really has been a community-led effort, and that’s just such a win.”
Building works began at the pub on Tuesday (August 31), with plans to move the kitchen and the toilets into the basement.
Residents have passed by and expressed their excitement at the sight of pub life once again.
Cllr Oliver Cooper (Tory, Hampstead Town) said that “Christmas will come early” with the Old White Bear set to open for the festive period.
"After years of closure, the rebirth of the Old White Bear would be one of the great comeback stories,” Camden’s opposition leader said.
“That wouldn’t be possible without thousands of residents missing their pub, showing it support, and ensuring it was protected as an ACV.
"There have been false dawns before, but the attraction of a pub that has such a large and motivated base of regulars would be clear to anyone looking to reopen it, so campaigners making their voices heard makes the business case too.”
Cllr Cooper said the recent reopening of the Magdala Tavern, and now the news of the Old White Bear’s return, was part of a “renaissance” of Hampstead’s pubs.
He added: “Of all our lost pubs, the Old White Bear is the one I'm looking forward to raising a pint in the most.”
Leeds Brewery runs the Haverstock Tavern in Haverstock Hill and the Albert in Princess Road.
Landlord Sam said the Old White Bear’s restoration would be similar to its reopening of the Primrose Hill pub, in that its original features would be maintained.
Beers would range from “recognisable” brands to independent craft options, while the wine list would also be “really good”.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel... we want people to walk through the front door and still feel like it’s the Old White Bear,” Sam said.
Leeds Brewery bought the lease for the pub on the ground floor and basement from the freeholder, the Max Barney Pub Company.
Heathside School, which currently operates on the first and second floor, said it is in advanced negotiations with the freeholder to extend its lease on the site.