Omicron forces Highgate pub to undergo “restructure”

Brendan the Navigator in Highgate Hill

Brendan the Navigator in Highgate Hill - Credit: Polly Hancock

Highgate’s Brendan the Navigator is having to “restructure” its offering due to a drastic drop in trade as a result of the spread of the Omicron variant. 

A fusion of Irish and English influences, the pub opened last April in the building once home to the Old Crown. It was restored and continues to be run by musician John Rynne and head chef Michael Spurgeon. 

On Wednesday (January 5), the pub posted on Instagram saying Omicron’s “diabolical impact” had forced its owners to restructure the business and close for the first few weeks of January. 

John told the Ham&High: “Everybody now knows that Omicron has had a huge impact on the hospitality industry in the last six or seven weeks from when it started to first appear, and in particular that has hit us maybe harder than some other pubs which may have a longer history and deeper pockets. 

“Despite the ongoing Covid pandemic that never seemed to be going away, we were nevertheless growing slowly a trade all the way from August up to November.  

“It was beginning to get to a reasonably good place in November, and then it literally went off a cliff through cancellations of functions.” 

Landlord John Rynne pouring a pint of Guinness in April

Landlord John Rynne pouring a pint of Guinness in April - Credit: Polly Hancock

John said the plan is to remain open on weekends for the rest of January and into February, but to close on weeknights, due to the lack of people heading out Monday to Thursday. 

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Once Omicron has started to subside and dry January has come to an end, he said they will be looking to add back a weeknight at a time, “depending on how the trade supports it". 

“What we want to do is to get to a situation without it being a loss-making venture like it would have been,” he said.  

Health precautions will continue to be taken seriously, ensuring the pub has good ventilation and hand-sanitiser is available. The whole team of staff is also already fully-vaccinated.  

John said: “In general we run a careful ship and I think a lot of our customers know that.” 

Despite the set-back, John remains hopeful that “normality will be restored, and we can continue to grow a warm and welcoming venue and amenity for the community of Highgate Archway”.