Rawsha: Former Salt House's new owners say concerns are 'racist' as they deny shisha rumours
PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:48 29 August 2019
The project manager for the former Salt House pub development has responded to critics, saying objections to its planning applications have a racist undertone.
Ali Sayed, the interior designer and project manager for the overhaul, also said that serving shisha isn't planned for the Abbey Road pub's near future. A new "high-end" bar and restaurant, Rawsha, will open in the next eight weeks.
He confirmed that the people behind the project are Mohsen Jhalehdoust, who runs Syon Lounge in Brenford, and business partner Ali Salman.
Speaking on behalf of the new owners, Mr Sayed said: "They feel very much like there is a race card being involved here.
"There was a reason why it closed, and that was because it wasn't making any money. They feel like if they were white, and it would be called the Salt House they wouldn't have as many complaints as they have done."
The owners have spent more than £1.5million on the refurbishment, including importing marble from Italy and spending £250,000 on relocating the kitchen.
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The pub closed in New Year 2017. It was then bought by the Max Barney Pub Company.
Concerns have since been raised about the pub's fate. Mr Sayed, who used to live in St John's Wood, said he didn't understand the panic.
"I keep reading the claims around shisha. I don't know where they have got this concern from. There is no plans to serve shisha at the restaurant, and that isn't the concept that was drawn up. In six months or a year's time if they decide to serve it, that is up to them."
He also doesn't believe there will be an increase in traffic or outside noise compared to when the pub was open.
Mr Sayed told the Wood&Vale that the owners hadn't spoken to residents as they hadn't felt it appropriate. They had offered to meet the St John's Wood Society with the City of Westminster Council present, but this hadn't been arranged.
However there will be a chance for neighbours to visit the venue and sample its food and drink before it opens.
"Campaigners were looking to make it an asset of community value, and that attracted me. It should be an asset of community value, looking at its history and the area's connection with the Beatles, and something that everyone should use," said Mr Sayed.