Regulars stand shoulder to shoulder in the bar at the Cock Tavern. The Somers Town pub is threatened with closure
Published: 4 October, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA
RAIL union chief Bob Crow has weighed into the battle to save a “traditional working-class pub” from being closed by property developers.
The Cock Tavern, in the heart of Somers Town, says a fight to keep its tenancy is likely to be decided at the London County Court.
The freehold of the building in Phoenix Road was bought 18 months ago by property company Flamestrike, which is now demanding rent is paid three months in advance, causing financial problems for the bar. In the past, rent has been paid weekly and the pub was able to buy discounted beer through the brewery owners.
Supporters of landlady Sheila Gavigan, 40, who has been running the pub for 13 years, are appealing to Town Hall planners to block any “change of use” application which would allow the freeholders to end its life as a pub.
The pub is near the headquarters of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).
Its London regional chair Vaughan Thomas said: “This traditional working-class pub is in the way because developers know it’s the only thing stopping them building expensive flats as part of the area’s apparent ‘regeneration’ or what we know it as – ‘gentrification’.”
In a press statement, RMT leader Mr Crow said: “Save the Cock Tavern from being turned into yuppie flats by some bunch of property speculators.”
No plans to redevelop the building have been submitted.
The freehold was previously owned by Admiral Taverns, and prior to that Punch Taverns, which both sold beer to Ms Gavigan at a discounted rate. That arrangement has changed since the freehold was passed on.
John O’Keefe, 70, who has been drinking in the pub for five years, said: “You’re never on your own while you’re here.
"I have problems filling out forms, I come here for help with that. I use their phone when I can’t use my own. I’ll be flummoxed if it closes.”
Disabled pensioner Bev Baxter, 68, said the landlady did his shopping for him, and looked after his dog when he had hospital appointments.
He said: “This is my home. I’m here to socialise not drink. It’s another underhand development where the men with the big money think they can bully us out of where we have lived for decades.
“Pubs nowadays are all people in suits saying: ‘Yah, yah.’ They’re not our sort of people. We’d have nowhere if this shut.”
David Fisherman, 74, added: “I sit here for hours with two pints and they don’t want me to buy more because they are my friends. We joke and say this is Leverton’s [funeral director] waiting room because this is where we feel safe in our last years.
“Otherwise we’d be housebound. If there’s a day one of us doesn’t come in to the pub Sheila sends someone to check on us.”
Well-known as a Glasgow Celtic supporters pub, it also acts as a meeting place for unions, social clubs and community choirs.
Sligo-born landlady Ms Gavigan said she could not comment.
The New Journal has not been able to contact Flamestrike. County Estate, which has been dealing with Ms Gavigan on behalf of Flamestrike, said it had “absolutely no comment to make”.