Six years ago today, it was knocked down - next week the Carlton reopens
- Credit: Jonathan Goldberg
Six years after bulldozers demolished a Kilburn pub to rubble the doors will open for service once again.
The Carlton Tavern is a community triumph and now the baton is being passed to its new landlords intent on making it a success in challenging times.
Tom Rees and Ben Martin, of Homegrown Pubs, took the lease of the Carlton Vale pub in January and on April 12, when Covid rules ease, will start serving drinks and food to punters outside.
"We're working hell for leather to be completely sorted, inside and outside," said Tom ahead of the opening.
"We're confident. Operationally we've got a team who have worked with us for years and we know what we're doing.
"The bit stressing us out is things like the plumbing not being completed but we can handle the crowds, the hoards, that's our business."
The new Carlton will offer food, headed by Ben, who is a chef, and a dining area has been created with a terrace that leads on to the beer garden. An old shower block was gutted and turned into a kitchen.
There's a focus on small suppliers, including Queen's Park micro-brewery Wolfpack.
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The threat to their livelihood is the pandemic.
"The current roadmap is not good for us," Tom said. "If we don't return to a sense of normality in June it is going to be a disaster. Ben and I have planned for it, we can cling on for a while, it's just we'll have bloody fingers. Hopefully the community will come out and support it."
On April 8 2015 the pub’s Tel Aviv-based owners, CLTX, triggered outrage when they bulldozed the venue without any prior warning or permission.
Prior to the demolition, Westminster City Council had previously rejected an application to knock it down and replace it with a bar and block of flats.
The Planning Inspectorate backed the council’s decision to tell CLTX that the pub had to be rebuilt "in facsimile" by July 2018.
CLTX eventually complied and still owns the top two floors.
Tom said: "They've done an amazing job at rebuilding it as it was. A lot of people have come in and said what a beautiful old building and they don't believe us when we say it's brand new.
"We feel we're getting the best of both worlds. We're getting a brand new pub with brand new electrics and wiring; and plumbing, but we're getting the charm and beauty of this heritage pub."
Internally they have retained the heritage features that survived, worked them into the design.
Tom said they are "really grateful" for the Save the Pub campaign.
"Ben and I were well aware that we wouldn't be here if there wasn't some hard graft done by the community groups and councillors," he said.
Polly Robertson, a member of the Rebuild the Carlton Tavern campaign, said: "It's been a journey. Other people have not seen the progress and the work going on behind the scenes. It's a real story of people power.
"At times we were pains in the neck and driving the council mad, asking what's on the agenda, what had been done and not done. It was making sure they knew we wouldn't let them get away with anything.
"It was 24 months for the rebuild - why did it take four years after that? We never stopped."
She continued: "The new pub looks identical. The guys taking over the place are young, they're vibrant, have a good ethos about them, and are turning it into a real family place, a good restaurant, local beers. It's a real gem."
Maida Vale councillor Geoff Barraclough said: “It’s great to see the Carlton Tavern reborn and it’s remarkable what can be achieved through strong community action when a council is prepared to use all its powers. I’ll certainly be along for a pint on opening day.”
Cllr Matthew Green, cabinet member for business, licensing and planning, said: “Westminster City Council has been working towards the Carlton Tavern reopening as a pub from the day it was illegally knocked down.
"As hospitality venues get ready to reopen their doors again this spring, the rebuilt Carlton Tavern delivers a message of hope, but is also a warning to developers that the council will not tolerate the kind of vandalism that led to the pub’s demolition in the first place."