Editorial comment: Saving the Carlton is a reminder of how vital pubs are

Westminster Council enforcement action ensured the Carlton Tavern would be rebuilt brick-by-brick. 

Westminster Council enforcement action ensured the Carlton Tavern would be rebuilt brick-by-brick. - Credit: @pubsaving Joanne

News that the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale could reopen in the next few months is a rare spot of light for our troubled hospitality sector.

The pub's case has been a sad one — of course, it should never have been demolished — but it was heartening to speak to two would-be publicans who recognise how important a successful watering hole is to a community.

Up in West Hampstead, both the developers hoping to build two extra flats inside of The Alliance pub and the regulars concerned about the planned changes talk of the importance of the pub. 

I hope this time next year, the pub is back to being a vibrant meeting place for groups of all stripes. 

In explaining the developer's reasoning for adding two flats to the premises, architect Ming Ko said it was necessary to alter the building to keep the pub operating. 

The Alliance pub in West Hampstead

The Alliance pub in West Hampstead. - Credit: Fordwych RA

What this illustrates is simple: the hospitality sector remains in dire straits and if nothing is done, by 2022 our neighbourhoods will be missing institutions which are truly their lifeblood. 

In the weeks and months of the pandemic, pub landlords have told the Ham&High repeatedly how difficult the landscape has become. Many are taking on more and more debt, and as high streets suffer too, the shape of our communities could look very different in the near future, and not for the better. 

The vociferous campaigning of people like Polly Robertson and Rob Cope in Maida Vale and Joanne Scott in West Hampstead shows that community action can make a difference, but activists can't save the fabric of our neighbourhoods on their own. 

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National and local government need to step up and make sure everything possible is done to make sure that we don't lose vital pillars of the community in 2021. 

The pandemic has exposed how lonely we can become without communal places to go. Even before the pandemic, the pub industry was in trouble. Its death spiral must be arrested.