Would-be publican shares his frustrations over delays to the reopening of the Magdala

PUBLISHED: 11:30 01 January 2020

The Magdala Tavern in South Hill Park. Picture: Harry Taylor

The Magdala Tavern in South Hill Park. Picture: Harry Taylor


The would-be landlord of the Magdala Tavern has aired his frustrations that the venue hasn’t opened this year but has said he’s hopeful of it serving punters in 2020.

Through the window of the now closed pub The Prince Albert in Princess Road Primrose Hill.Through the window of the now closed pub The Prince Albert in Princess Road Primrose Hill.

In May, the Ham&High revealed that Dick Morgan was hoping to open the infamous "Ruth Ellis" pub in South Hill Park. It has been closed since 2014 where locals fought a campaign to keep it open.

Planning applications by its owner, Ori Calif, have been rejected by Camden Council since the venue's closure. They included a conversion of the first floor into flats earlier this year.

Mr Calif and his company CLTX have had previous planning run-ins, having been told to rebuild the Carlton Tavern, in Carlton Vale, brick-by-brick after demolishing it without permission. He also owns the Albert in Primrose Hill. Both of the Camden pubs are assets of community value (ACV).

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Mr Morgan said he was "frustrated" but still committed to it. When his licence was approved in May he said it needed further work to install a ventilation duct, but this has also been delayed.

"We've done everything but are bogged down in legals," he said. "It's incredibly frustrating. We've agreed a rent and a lease that's waiting to be signed off. Me and my son have put a lot of personal time into this. I'm checking at the start of every week to try and make sure it's being pushed along. It's not for the want of trying."

The Magdala is one of Hampstead's most famous pubs, being where Ruth Ellis shot her boyfriend on Easter Sunday 1955 and became the last woman to be hanged in Britain as a result.

Cllr Maria Higson, who supported the initial license application in May, said: "Along with many residents I am disappointed that the reopening has been delayed. Aside from the community benefits that local venues bring, this particular pub has a remarkable history to preserve. Residents and Mr Morgan worked hard to get a licence in May, and I hope we can all celebrate its opening soon."

The Albert, in Princess Road, was also hoping to be open this year, but this newspaper understands the would-be licensee at the pub, Sam Moss, has faced similar problems to Mr Morgan. Mr Moss has since opened the Haverstock Tavern in Rosslyn Hill. He has not responded to an approach for comment.

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