Old White Bear campaign group asks for people to back pub’s ACV renewal

The Old White Bear pub. Picture: Harry Taylor

The Old White Bear pub. Picture: Harry Taylor - Credit: Archant

The Old White Bear is trying to rally support ahead of its Asset of Community Value status expiring next year, marking more than four years since it closed.

Empty room at the Old White Bear

Empty room at the Old White Bear - Credit: Harry Taylor

The pub, in New End, closed in February 2014 sparking huge fears over its future.

An ACV was granted in 2014, and gives community groups the right to try a property if it is listed for sale.

It lay dormant and empty until eventually being bought by the owners of private Heathside School, and its directors including headteacher Melissa Remus.

It was hoped the purchase in 2017 would breathe new life into the pub, one of many in Hampstead to face uncertainty in the last decade. Plans that were passed meant Heathside School would move into the upstairs of the pub, while the downstairs would be retained for it to reopen.

The empty bar at the Old White Pub in New End. Picture: Harry Taylor

The empty bar at the Old White Pub in New End. Picture: Harry Taylor - Credit: Harry Taylor

A publican was found, local man Dan Brod who runs Bramley Bars, and an estimated opening date of early 2018 was given.

However when the Ham&High visited this week there were little signs of life.

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The bar was unstocked, a few lonely chairs remained, and the bell behind the bar looked as though it had called last orders for the final time.

New End resident Philip Matthews, who is a board member of Hampstead BID and is campaigning to save the pub, says campaigners feel its reopening has been kicked into the long grass.

“We feel like we’ve been kept in the dark over it. There has been so many promises of opening dates, which haven’t come off.

“Dan has been messed around for the last two years, he wants to sign the lease and open up - but he can’t. We feel Ms Remus has no interest at all in seeing the Old White Bear reopen.”

Campaign group Save Our Bear is asking for people to sign a petition calling for the ACV to be renewed. It expires in January.

Heathside School and headteacher Ms Remus have also faced criticism from Ofsted. It released a report in September, saying “leaders and staff do not know how to keep pupils safe,” and that record-taking at the school in Hampstead was poor.

A spokesperson for Heathside School said: “[We] remain committed to the welfare, health and safety of our pupils as our first priority. The school has submitted a very detailed action plan to the Department for Education following the Ofsted reports published in October. We are looking forward to a further inspection to check progress against that plan soon.

“We have listened to parents’ concerns and are grateful for the feedback we have received. We remain committed to providing the best possible education for our pupils in a happy and secure environment.

“We still intend to re-open the Old White Bear soon but can not currently say when that will be.”

If you want to sign the petition supporting the pub, go to: http://www.oldwhitebear.com/