Old White Bear sale could see pub reopen after six years

The Old White Bear in New End, Hampstead. Picture: Harry Taylor

The Old White Bear in New End, Hampstead. Picture: Harry Taylor - Credit: Harry Taylor

A much loved Hampstead pub at the heart of a dispute between campaigners and its owner could soon be welcoming drinkers once again.

The Old White Bear and (inset) the advertising brochure. Picture; Harry Taylor

The Old White Bear and (inset) the advertising brochure. Picture; Harry Taylor - Credit: Harry Taylor

The Ham&High can reveal that the Old White Bear in New End, which has been closed since February 2014, is currently under offer and contracts have been exchanged.

It has been the subject of a bitter battle between supporters who wanted to reopen it and owner Melissa Remus, the former headteacher of Heathside School, who opened a classroom on its first floor.

The bidder is thought to be the Max Barney Pub Company, which has not responded to requests for comment.

Guy Wingate, who lives in Hampstead Square, and has been one of the team behind the bid to get it reopened, welcomed the sale.

“It will be nice to see the pub come out of its six years of ‘furlough’. All we can hope for is whoever is buying it, will open it as a pub and run it as a pub,” he said.

Earlier this week a brochure advertising its sale could be seen through its dusty windows. The sale is expected to be completed in the autumn.

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The Old White Bear has been twice granted asset of community value (ACV) status, most recently in 2019. It would have given a nominated group six months to raise funds if it was put up for sale. However, the ownership structure that the pub has been in since 2013 and the law on ACVs mean the community will not get to bid for it.

According to the Land Registry, since 2013 it has been owned Braaid Ventures Ltd. The company is registered offshore in the Isle of Man. The island’s registry says the company was struck off and went into receivership in May this year. The legislation on ACVs means that if an asset is being sold due to a bankruptcy or insolvency proceedings it is exempt from the ACV law.

The Land Registry says there are two current lenders for the property. The first, Tail Wind Advisory and Management Ltd, is owned by Hampstead hedge fund manager David Crook. The second is Remus White Ltd, owned by former Heathside School headteacher Ms Remus, which went into administration owing millions of pounds to creditors in July 2019.

Camden Council, which would manage the ACV process if it was triggered, has confirmed it was aware of the pub being up for sale under bankruptcy proceedings.

Mr Wingate called for the new owners to meet with locals to outline their plans.

“We’d absolutely be happy to, as would our many thousands of supporters,” he said. “It’s common sense for them to get in touch once the sale goes through and we can help reopen the pub.”

Neighbours have seen movement inside the pub in the last week.

Farida Ali Khan, who has run the Shaminah Art Gallery and Café in New End since 2005 said: “I saw someone opening up the pub and moving things inside and taking them out using a trolley.

“Of course I’d like it back open. We all used to go in, it was the highlight of our lives to go in and have a drink.”

The pub’s listing with estate agents Avison Young shows that the freehold for all three of the pub’s floors is up for sale.

The first floor has been occupied by a Heathside School classroom since 2018, and the brochure shows that break clauses are in place at the end of August, and December this year.

A spokesperson for Dukes Education, which now runs Heathside School, confirmed it is aware of the bid and had secured an agreement with the prospective buyers to use the upper floors until the lease expires in August 2021.

The upstairs was previously used by a local theatre company, for functions and as staff accommodation before it closed.

Cllr Oliver Cooper (Con, Hampstead Town) described

the news as a “filip” for the area, but warned against “toasting it too early”.

“The technicalities of the mortgage might mean the community can’t buy back the Bear now, but planning permission will be needed to turn it into anything other than a pub,” he said.

“If that happens, there’s nobody we’d want fighting against that more than Hampstead residents.”