‘Locals returning’ for first weekend back for Highgate pub after changes

Brendan the Navigator in Highgate Hill

Brendan the Navigator in Highgate Hill - Credit: Polly Hancock

Highgate pub Brendan the Navigator has reopened for its first weekend back following its Omicron-enforced restructure.

The pub, which sits in Highgate Hill opposite Waterlow Park, had announced last month that the “diabolical impact” of the variant had required it to close for a few weeks while it underwent some changes. 

Co-owner John Rynne told the Ham&High: “It was beginning to get to a reasonably good place in November, and then it literally went off a cliff through cancellations of functions.” 

The pub finally reopened its doors on Friday, January 28, for a weekend that John described as “good enough for a restart". 

“People were very understanding of the new realities of the pub trade where we don’t plan to be open during the week days for a few weeks at least, until we see how trade restores after the Omicron scares and all of that," he said.

He said there was also cause for celebration following the council’s refusal of a planning application which would have resulted in the loss of the terrace for pub customers – an area John described as “invaluable” as the weather improves. 

He said: “We had a lot of our locals and dependables returning, and quite a few people in to acknowledge and celebrate the refusal of that planning permission next door for the terrace.” 

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The habits of customers attending pubs has made the space even more essential, he adds, with a lot of people preferring to sit outside despite the cold. 

He said: “It’s an absolutely essential factor of hospitality these days."

The team from left: Eleanor McLoughlin; Michael Spurgeon; John Rynne; James Gavin

The team from left: Eleanor McLoughlin; Michael Spurgeon; John Rynne; James Gavin - Credit: Polly Hancock

While Brendan the Navigator is currently being run as a “tight operation” and will remain a weekend-only pub until things pick up, John is keen to emphasise that the plan remains to open it up again during the week once things improve. 

He said that the first weekend back represented “green shoots”, with the turnout suggesting “people are beginning to gain a little bit more confidence and come back out, which is good. 

“Hopefully that will continue and we can develop the trade from that, and then we can start returning and provide a service during the weeknights as well.”