Why we need to save the George IV pub

Bridget Chapman started up the campaign to save the George IV pub. Here she explains why the campaign is so important 

Tesco intend to turn the George IV into a store

Pubs aren’t just pubs. They’re spaces for a community to meet in, venues for celebrations and commiserations, places for the lonely to find company. They are the genuine Big Society.  The George IV (known more recently as Music Bar) was not ‘just’ a pub. It was a live music venue, a theatre space, hosted a radio station and recording studio, was an art gallery, one of the few places locally playing reggae music, and it put on special events for local young people – vital when there’s so little for them to do in the area. Losing it as a pub would be a disaster. Losing it to become a Tesco even more so.

Why do I say that?  Well, most importantly, once it becomes a Tesco, we’ve lost that precious community space. Forever.  And it’s not the only one we will have lost. This comprehensive list from the urban 75 website details many of the pubs our community has lost over the years. Names like Branksome Arms, Duke of Wellington, Red Lion, Royal Oak, Wagon and Horses, Two Woodcocks – just some of the names that have already disappeared from the SW2 postcode, in which the George IV sits.

A Tesco Express also threatens the community in other ways.  At the recent People’s Question Time event, hosted by local MP, Chuka Umunna, a local shopkeeper stood up and told the audience that his shop had been badly affected by last year’s riots. His shop had been invaded, badly damaged, stock was stolen, and he had been physically threatened. But none of that, he said, had damaged his business as much as a Sainsbury’s Local store opening up nearby.

I live on Brixton Hill, and within 5 minutes walk of my home I have already two Sainsbury’s and one Tesco.  Enough is enough. We need to protect the character of the hill, and defend local businesses.  According to the paper “Plugging the Leaks” (published by the New Economics Foundation), research shows that 80% of money spent in a local business stays in the community, while 80% of money spent in a chain leaves the local economy.  Another Tesco means that we not only lose a valuable community space but that local businesses are negatively affected, and the local economy is weakened. This page on the excellent TotallyLocal website explains it nicely.

The earliest record of the George IV pub is on this 1864 map (look to the right of the waterworks). That means it’s been there, in one form or another, for nearly 150 years and is a key part of local history. Let’s not lose it now!

Bridget Chapman, Save George IV Campaign

What can you do to help?  Most importantly and urgently you can object to Tesco’s latest planning applications, and information on how to do that is here: https://brixtonblog.com/george-iv-campaign-how-to-object-to-new-planning-applications/8081

Follow @SaveGeorgeIV on Twitter and ‘like’ our Facebook page for more information and to be kept informed. http://www.facebook.com/StopTescoSaveGeorgeIV#!/StopTescoSaveGeorgeIV?fref=ts




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  3. Hi
    Dose anybody know who the landlord is or who is dealing with the sale or the rent on George iv?
    From someone who would like to see it as a busy local pub?

  4. Here’s a thought: let the squatters pay nothing for the rent, but still run the place as a licensed venue? Since the licensing laws probably say nothing about the licensee having to own vs. rent vs. whatever any given pub, surely a legal path can be blazed here? I mean, enough normal pub landlords get f**ked-over on their high rent and bondage to the brewery, whilst the licensing laws sit back and ignore it, considering it part of the business side of things, right? So flip that on its head and use it for good. Get someone with a personal license, then premises license if possible, then run it as a co-op squat, with residential areas and ‘commercial’ areas separate. Sell locally-brewed beers or interesting ones, do something different (but commercially-viable). There’s a market for that – and the vibe that goes with an intelligently, ethically-run, co-op-type squat business, and I for one would be part of it.

    The music has to be done right, though, reggae wouldn’t hurt (apparently no-one plays reggae any more in Brixton, WTF? Everyone likes Reggae!) but anything non-commercial but popular enough to help sustain a market would be good. You also have to advertise it well, unlike previous places (since it’s far up Brixton Hill it doesn’t get passing trade or casual trade, which is the main issue, I think).

    • All good ideas. Problem. The squatters don’t seem want to run something ‘viable’. I think they just want to occupy the building so Tesco can’t move in. Also, even if they did go to all that effort of organising something, squatters don’t generally open their spuats to any one exept other squatters. So the George IV is out of bounds for the local residents.

  5. So good to here some intelligent conversation and comment, thank you Derrick and Urbanspaceman, your honesty and clarity is refreshing in a blog community of protest without thought or any sort of alternative that is viable. I compare to the invasion of a country to overthrow a regime in the misled name of democracy and having neither an exit plan or a thought to what will happen socially and politically by the void left behind. Ok, so The scales are really not in balance but the point I exagerate to make is that it is a crucial part of the process to have a workable and viable alternative. Yes of course a community pub would be a great thing to have. It would really help to bring community focus to Brixton Hill but the Music Bar or whatever was the most recent name for George 1V was certainly not that. And now there are squatters on site, and only protests at Tesco with no viable alternative plan, Idon”t suppose there is any chance of getting anything more than a wasteland to blight the area, and you know what, Tesco is a better alternative than that.

  6. I live 300 yards from where the new Tesco would open.
    And i strongly disagree with comments critisising the campaign and the campaigners on the grounds that they do not have a replacement plan or that they should have acted sooner when the Music Bar was in decline rather than react, accusing them of being out of touch with their community or motivated by blind hatred towards Tesco.
    As a local resident i do not wish to see another Tesco open close to my house as i fear the consequences it will have on local shops and therefore on the community, and I am personally grateful to those who invested their time and energy in raising awareness in the neighborhood about what there is to lose. Market forces win because people are too busy trying to survive within them rather than use their will and brain to shape their own environment.

    At best this campaign will keep Tesco from opening and has built common grounds for the community to engage in finding a more beneficial replacement solution.

    At worst, Tesco opens, but the ‘community’, which is currently trying to define itself through this campaign amongst other things, has taken a bit of time out of its ‘market determinism’ routine, has built a voice and is a little bit more confident in driving the developments that affect its environment rather than suffer them.

    Why would anyone oppose (rather than help improve) a positive grass-root action, and support Tesco as a model tax payer (please!!!), is beyond my understanding.

    • So you’re going to set up and chair the residents association right, Or will you be leaving that to others as well?
      Words are easy, actions as the previous history shows require much more dedication.

      • This “solve everything singlehandedly or keep bloody quiet” attitude is very odd, and very telling.

  7. So many people caring about the community – funny how they never stepped up to the plate before. Community spirit my arse – I’ll give ’em 5 minutes.

  8. “How do you know what the local residents want ? Has there been a survey ? In fact, can you even define “local” ? We know that YOU don’t want a Tesco, but that’s not really enough.”
    Well, having distributed petitions to a large number of shops up Brixton Hill and whilst discussing the issue with the shopkeeper been interrupted in nearly every shop by customers wanting to sign, disgusted that yet another supermarket is opening on the hill, I am pretty confident that it’s not just ME that doesn’t want a Tesco. I’ve spoken with plenty of ‘locals’ (which I’d define as living close enough to Brixton Hill that they’d use the shops there on a reasonably regular basis (please don’t ask me to define ‘reasonably regular’), and there’s been a resounding disgust that there aren’t rules forbidding supermarkets opening up within half a mile of each other. Shop after shop kept calling me up asking for new petition sheets as they’d filled up the ones I’d left. The response was phenomenal.
    The thing is this ISN’T just market forces at work. With a Sainsburys local a quarter of a mile DOWN the hill from this site and a Sainsburys local a quarter of a mile UP the hill from this site, this isn’t about Tesco seeing a nice spot to sell some groceries. This is Tesco playing a game of chess with Sainsburys. They don’t care if their store on this site makes any money or not they just want a presence on the hill, breaking up Sainsburys’ dominance. And the losers in this game of chess are the local shopkeepers and their employees who lose trade to the supermarkets and will ultimately lose their livelihoods. And we all lose out as our streets become identikit copies of each other, the same shops selling the same products.
    “It’s just a shop, for Pete’s sake”. It’s really so much more than that. This ISN’T people obsessing about shopping choices it’s people being bothered about their neighbours and their families losing their livelihoods, their local neighbourhood turning into a playground for corporations funnelling money out of the community.

    • The problem is you have no viable alternative – they are all untried and pie in the sky. I’d rather the building was occupied by a tax paying business, than a bunch full of squatters paying nothing back to Lambeth Council and the local community.

  9. Great article on an important campaign. I recall some great nights at the Music box – filled with joy, music and conversation. Not with ‘transient’ (what a phrase!) musicians, but with South Londoners and Brixtonites like/ and unlike myself. It would be a fantastic shame to see the pub disappear amongst a wave of corporate induced amnesia and apathy – a slip from which, as Bridget says, there is no return.

    The dishonesty and reductivism of many of the pro-tesco arguments here make it slightly difficult to know where to begin a rebuttal. Nonetheless, it seems worth questioning why urbanspaceman calls for a yes/no survey and then dismisses a 1,500 strong petition as too easy! It seems baffling that people can claim tesco are playing on a level playing field or would close the store if it stopped making money, or do not use their substantial political influence to force through planning decisions at all levels. And it seems baffling that after Bridget’s multiply formed arguments about history, community and economy – people can then be as reductive as to say it is ‘only a shop’ – its a reductivism which seems quite dangerous in its potention for expansion.

    Whether born through innocence, apathy or complicit interest these arguments all read like politicians double speak. What I can’t quite tell is how they serve you? Surely you are not really advocating that a Tesco there would in any way improve things??

    • Ben what are you offering to replace it with? We’ve had a decade worth of people trying and failing. Plenty long enough for any ‘community based’ idea to succeed.

      • Why do you think that an unless an objection comes neatly packaged with a clear and pragmatic alternative solution, that the objection is invalid?

      • Because that’s how building a community works. You need something to replace the void. You were sincere in wanting to grow the community weren’t you ?

      • So the same individual that raises a complaint MUST also be the same individual that offers the alternative solution, otherwise the complaint doesn’t stand? That’s pretty funny.

        Did you also dismiss the Occupy protesters because they didn’t turn up to St Pauls with a peer-reviewed 500 page plan to restructure the entire global economy?

        well meek.

      • But you have no solution and are sticking your head in the ground about the future – that’s hardly practical or realistic.
        Do you want another empty wasteland/eyesore – like Streatham Bowl – that’ll be great for community cohesion and vandalism. NOT!
        Grow up and think it through, stop digging your heels in like a petulant teenage and realise the consequences of your actions.

  10. When I first heard that Tesco were planning to turn the George IV into an ‘Express’ I wondered if it was just me that felt that it wasn’t a good thing for the community. I set up a petition to see if others felt the same way. Within a week (I think) we’d hit 1000 signatures and it currently stands at well over 1500. Reading the comments it was clear that it wasn’t just me that felt really uncomfortable, many others in the area felt very strongly that this was not something they wanted. I’d be interested Derrick, Ed, urbanspaceman, to see how many signatures you got clamouring for another Tesco. Shall we check? I’ll even set up a petition for you if you like. I can’t say fairer than they, can I? : )

    • Well done on getting 1500 signatures – that is a lot. I might ask what exactly the significance of a signature is though. How much effort does it take and what commitment does it entail ? I’m thinking here about how easy it is easy whip up thousands of supporters eg on Facebook for the most random of causes.

      Still, my questions remain. What is the alternative use for the site ? Has any other party come up with a non-Tesco plan ?

      And don’t you agree that if Tesco is as unpopular as you believe, that it will soon close ?

      As for your kind offer of a pro-Tesco petition, you misunderstand. I hold no brief for Tesco. They’re big boys and they don’t need my support.

      I suppose what bugs me is the amazingly bourgeois locus of your discontent.

      It’s just a shop for Pete’s sake!

      Surrounded by all the real and pressing social/political problems in Lambeth, people here are obsessing about shopping choices.

      • “don’t you agree that if Tesco is as unpopular as you believe, that it will soon close ?”

        Tesco don’t worry too much about one store underperforming. They are pioneers of loss-leaders after all. Once there it will stay, profit or not. The shops further up the street will go though, because they actually do have to worry about rent and tax avoidance.

      • Thanks Simon, you beat me to it! Of course Tesco won’t close – but other shops will. And if being concerned about the community as a whole is “bourgeois”, then proud to be so : )

      • I too hold no brief for Tesco but you aren’t clear on what you are for. It’s very easy to be against something, and we might all agree, what I don’t think you are clear on is what you are for.
        You say you want more community but there is none at present, you have neither set one up, initiated one or maintained one. Communities aren’t made by local shops – as the Tyre Shop, Tile shop and appliances shop demonstrate. They are made and maintained by residents associations, neighbourhood watches and community halls. None of which there was any demand for previously and none of which any of you are proposing to instigate.
        So before you declare ‘no to any progress’ please define what you are for and what you are willing to contribute towards it – and why you haven’t done it already.

  11. The substance of the objection here is simply: It’s Tesco.

    What to do with the empty pub building is a secondary concern and a side debate.

    First things first.

    We, the local residents who frequent and use this area on a daily basis, don’t require and certainly have no desire for a Tesco on this site.

    The whole ‘you can’t argue with market forces – way of the world – sad, yeah, but thats how it is’ response is simply lazy and irresponsible Capitalist pandering, with no moral grounding, which is how we arrived in this mess.

    Our government will not put a cap on supermarket openings.Because they are greedy, short sighted idiots with no understanding of community.

    If we look to France, where there is a cap, you can see how the attitude to local, grassroots business is treated with more respect, and supermarkets with due disdain.

    So, if our millionaire club cabinet office won’t do anything, and our entirely absent councilor Steve Reed (already in Croydon!?!) obviously won’t help – then it is up to us, the local people to oppose and stop the rot.

      • I knew someone would bite if I mentioned France!

        Fact is, they cap supermarkets, we don’t, and we should.

      • #japes.

        There’s a restriction up in Clapham on the number of bars or late licenses.

        Point being there’s precedent for some form of commercial cap.

    • “We, the local residents who frequent and use this area on a daily basis”

      how? by walking past a Tile Shop – its hardly community usage!

      • I use the whole stretch of Brixton Hill. Local shops / cafes / services from Streatham Hill up to Lambeth town hall.

        One pithy example like a Tile Shop doesn’t make a case for Tesco.

        Do you actually want a Tesco there? What is it they provide that you can’t find already?

    • A few questions:

      “….don’t require and certainly have no desire….” How do you know what the local residents want ? Has there been a survey ? In fact, can you even define “local” ? We know that YOU don’t want a Tesco, but that’s not really enough.

      The whole “local shop for local people” thing might hold up in Royston Vaizey, but it’s hard to justify when discussing a shop that lies on a major arterial road in Inner London. I would guess that a lot of the customers for this Tesco might be “passing trade”, not locals.

      Let’s look at France: there are huge and popular supermarket chains there. 70% of French household food purchases are made in hyper/supermarkets, and hard discounters, compared to 80% in the UK. So that’s a modest difference, but not particularly persuasive.

      There’s something else: I remember when political debate was about how society and government should be organised, how to educate, clothe and feed the poor – big ideas, ideas that mattered. It’s rather amusing/disappointing to observe that the central issue of Left Consciousness has now dwindled down to quibbling over which shops you like or dislike.

      • “Has there been a survey ?”

        If due process had been carried out at any stage, by Tesco, by the local council, by anyone, then I’m confident we wouldn’t be having yet another supermarket in a stretch heavily populated by.supermarkets.

        “Royston Vaizey”
        I choose to spend money and support local shops and tradespeople over large corporations because I see that as the closest thing to a meaningful democratic vote I have available to me.
        I personally think this section of the road has little to no ‘passing trade’ as most of it is in cars or on buses. My assessment would be that most people on foot probably live closeby, but perhaps not as close as the next supermarket on the road.

        Location is critical to this comparison though. In France there is much more of the hypermarkets in out of town American style retail parks – here we are talking about small tesco metro’s popping up on high streets like a pox. France is resistant, whereas Britain, and you, seem rather keen to roll over and take it.

        “Political Debate and the Left”
        I have plenty of opinions and views on all aspects of politics. It just so happens that today I’m raising an objection to a multinational taking up residence where it is clearly not needed. Attempting to extend my personal, singular objection into some overarching stance or a symptom of a dwindling left wing ideology is, clearly, absurd. I could make grand assumptions from your post too, and suggest you are trying to lazily discredit or pigeonhole me in order to avoid grappling with a real problem.

  12. From what I understand, the issue isn’t that there aren’t lots of viable alternatives, but rather that there was poor management of previous owners.

    There was a group called Running Hand in Hand which wanted to take it over. They couldn’t get the owner to respond to them. There is another group called the Effort Collective who have offered to run it as a community space. The Windmill around the corner runs as a viable venue. In Streatham, another pub – the White Lion – has been turned around and made into a community space very effectively.

    There are people who want to use it, and there is no reason why it can’t be viable.

    • Yes there is, a multinational got there before them. Why are these pro-community groups always reactive rather than proactive – kind of goes against their ethos. If you are in touch with your community then you should already have been there…..just sayin’
      Its all very well being wise after the horse has bolted the fact remains that the previous owner made his/her own mind up, which s/he has a perfect right to.

  13. How much longer are we going to let market forces destroy our communities? Our local pubs are closing at an alarming rate, these were at the heart of our communities and they are being driven into the ground by the likes of Tesco, Saninburys and Asda. These companies only care for your spare cash not for your society. Their increased use of loss leaders for alcohol products are what are driving the local to the wall. You may want to enjoy a beer from a can in your living room, I would much rather pop along to a local pub and enjoy it with a group of friends. South London has lost many of its great boozers, some into supermarkets, some into macdonalds and some are just derelict, let’s hope the George can be saved.

    • But this wasn’t a ‘local’ pub was it? It lost that nomenclature years ago (along with all the rest of ’em). I hasn’t made it as a ‘local’ pub for a decade or so. No ‘local’ entrepreneurs came along and spotted its potential to be a ‘local’ pub, that’s why it was a struggling music venue. The only community it has was musicians, their friends and family and even they were transient outsiders and not ‘local’.
      Dumb argument Brett.

    • They’re being ‘driven into the ground’ by a combination of being rubbish and local people no longer providing custom.

    • “…destroy our communities…” Can you expand on this – provide examples of communities that have been destroyed by pubs closing ? Presumably you are referring to research that illustrates a link between pub closures and say increasing crime or domestic violence or unemployment.

      Pubs have been closing for years, because nowadays there are so many other ways of spending leisure time, because of the smoking ban, and because lots of pubs in the good old days were smelly, dreary fleapits.

      Good pubs continue to thrive – the Effra Hall Tavern is a compelling local example.

      Also, you might want to check your solipsism at the door when you debate. The fact that you disapprove of drinking at home is persuasive of nothing.

  14. Bridget

    Beyond stopping Tesco, what plans do you have for the George IV ? Presumably it closed because it failed commercially as a venue/event space/gallery/etc. Are you expecting new owners to restart it as a pub, or as a multifunctional space ? is there any reason to expect it to be more financially viable in future ? Do you expect it to be subsidised, and if so by how much and by whom ?

    Surely, if most people hate Tesco as much as you do, there’s nothing to worry about. Tesco will open, nobody will shop there, and then it will close. But if Tesco thrives, then you may conclude that your opinions are out of step with your neighbours’ shopping preferences.

  15. PS. No one complained about the loss of the Telegraph a few hundred yards away. Perhaps it was because there were no supermarkets involved.

  16. “we’ve lost that precious community space. Forever.”

    But it wasn’t used before, it was in decline. The underlying reason you want to save it is because you (like most of us are fed up with the never-ending march of the supermarkets. If you were really into community initiatives then the venue wouldn’t have declined in the first place.

    Location-wise, its hardly in the middle of things, halfway up a hill, a long way from the tube or railway and surrounded by residential housing. Pubs are in decline all over the nation. You need to change the availability of cheap lager and the resistance to live entertainment in order to do that. You also need to change the business model of venues, who’d rather make their income from rental rather than booze buying customers.

    Blame the breweries and society but please don’t pretend this is some long held community initiative – you’re just against the multi-nationals – so are a lot of us. People are meeting in cafes like Negril and the Village. If entrepreneurs aren’t spotting the potential that you outline then who can blame the multis?

    • At last, some sense on the issue.

      Market forces at work, plain and simple.

      I’m not celebrating this fact. But I am acknowledging it.

      Use it or lose it, as they say.

    • Building communities is about people joining residents’ associations, street cleans, neighbourhood watch schemes and the like.

      These things are much more important than saving a failing pub.

      Besides, not only are people drinking at home, they are drinking less.

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