The Independent London Newspaper
19th December 2014

Letters

'Serial objectors' must not stop plan to turn underground toilets into new bar, says vodka expert

    William Borrell, the main man behind 'Ladies And Gentlemen'

    Published: 3 April, 2014
    By RICHARD OSLEY

    THE vodka expert who wants to turn underground public toilets in Kentish Town into a bar has warned that “serial objectors” should not be allowed to ruin the project.

    William Borrell said his plan to convert “dead space” – with Camden Council gaining in rental charges and business rates – would bring something new to the area.

    “This part of Kentish Town has been called the ‘cocktail quarter’ – and that’s not a bad thing,” he said. “We are not trying to recreate Camden Town here.”

    As the New Journal revealed exclusively last month, he hopes to open a bar, Ladies and Gentlemen, in the closed lavatories at the fork of Fortess Road and Highgate Road.

    Mr Borrell said that stretched public finances meant it was not realistic to expect the toilets would reopen as public conveniences. 

    He has been negotiating terms of a lease with the council, winning a bidding war with five other interested parties.

    Mr Borrell said: “In times when councils do not have much money, it is a waste to keep this as dead space. It is a sinkhole. If nobody had complained, the council were happy with what we’ve agreed and it would’ve gone through.”

    Planning officials are considering his application, although the final say is likely to go to councillors after objections were received.

    In a letter to the Town Hall, Caroline Hill, chairwoman of Kentish Town Road Action, said that “this small area of Kentish Town is already burdened with an overconcentration of bars and pubs”.

    She said the toilets should be used for their original purpose, adding: “Because there are so many drinking establishments in this part of Kentish Town the area is sorely in need of public toilets. The existing use will be of real benefit to the neighbourhood.”

    Belinda Wakefield, of Evangelist Road Residents’ Association, added: “It is a highly unsuitable site for a late-night bar. Kentish Town is not a late-night economy area like Camden Town.”

    Mr Borrell, who attended William Ellis School and lives locally, set up Vestal Vodka – of which the Savoy hotel and Harvey Nichols store are clients – after farming potatoes on his family’s long-held farm in Poland. 

    He started selling his company's drinks at ‘pop-up’ bars around London, but is now looking for a permanent base.

    He said: “The plan for the bar is bringing something new. There are letters of objection at the council, and they are within their rights to do that, but sometimes when you object to everything, the weight of your argument is lost and you don’t look at what the plans actually are. 

    “You can look at the Bull and Gate and the same objectors have helped hold back its reopening for more than a year when what they are doing at the Bull and Gate is actually a good thing.”

    Mr Borrell, whose brother Johnny is frontman of hit band Razorlight, said: “It is not overambitious to make our bar one of the best 50 bars in the world.”

    He urged people who support his plan to write to the council.

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