Anger as veteran landlord thrown out after 25 years – local boozer to turn into gastropub
A popular landlord is set to lose his job and family home of 25 years to make way for a gastropub chain.
Brendan Cluskey, who has run The Angel on City Road since the late Eighties, was given two months’ notice and told to “vacate the premises” by October 24 after the pub’s new owners decided to turn it into an All Bar One-style gastropub.
“I don’t know what to do, I have no place to go,” said Cluskey. “I don’t deserve this, I’ve never done anything wrong.”
Cluskey has lived with his wife and three children above the Finsbury pub for 25 years and said his younger daughter was even born in the bathroom upstairs.
Patrons of the pub have expressed their anger over the new owner’s plans to convert their “local boozer” into another gastropub.
“It’s a disaster. This has been a piece of people’s lives for so long. What they’re [the company bosses] missing is that you have a family that’s been here for 27 years, with their children in school, embedded in the community,” said Tom O’Reilly, a regular customer who frequents the pub whenever he is in London.
The pub was taken over by new owners Mitchells & Butlers after the company’s acquisition of the previous owner, The Orchid Group, in June.
Mitchells & Butlers run around 1,600 pubs, bars and restaurants throughout the country, including the All Bar One and Castle brand, of which the Angel will become a part of. The closest All Bar One is located a mere 500 yards from the Angel, on Chiswell Road.
Although the Angel is scheduled to close its doors for redesign this week, a campaign by regulars is trying to raise awareness for the pub’s fate.
“The humility of those people, they’re not out here waving a banner. And they’re destroyed, it’s a death. You can see that poor Brendan. I just worry, will he jump off the building or something? He doesn’t know how he’s going to feed his family, he doesn’t know where his family is going to be or where he’s going to live in three weeks time, after 27 years of loyalty that he’s given to the people around here,” O’Reilly said.
Rob Fernandes, who works close-by and frequents the pub, has set up a website to try to save the Angel and is printing stickers to inform the local residents.
“You couldn’t ask for a better and more mixed community of people, which is something London and in particular the City totally lacks with every bar and its visitors looking the same as one another. The fact that this community has been sustained is down to the landlord and his family’s welcoming nature for such a diverse group of people,” he said.
“The key thing for me is that this is a very unique pub because the people that work behind the bar are the same people that I’ve known all those years. And I put the question out: How many pubs in Central London can claim that?” said Mark Osborne, a journalist who used to come to the Angel every night when he worked in an office across the street. Along with some of his co-workers, he still drinks at the pub even though they are now based at London Bridge.
“It’s a very busy area so there’s a lot of passing trade, but actually that passing trade isn’t really passing because over time you realise that these people keep coming back.“
Cluskey said Mitchells & Butlers offered him a list of vacancies at their pubs, but added that his application would receive no preference and that none of the pubs were in Central London.
“I’m finding it very hard to get a job in the local area,” said Cluskey, adding that his three children, aged six, 14 and 18, all go to local schools.
A spokesperson for Mitchells & Butlers said in an email: “Since we purchased the Angel we have been very open with Brendan Cluskey about our plans. We have given Brendan notice of changes and offered him the opportunity to consider other vacancies within the company. Conversations between ourselves and Mr Cluskey are still ongoing and are private, therefore we can not disclose any further details.
“Following our investment, the Angel will become part of our Castle pub collection – distinctive and individual pubs offering high quality food, a range of excellent and cask-conditioned ales. We therefore need a management team who have the experience of running this style of business and continue to build on the pub’s success in the future.”
Tom Ireson has been coming to the Angel for 15 years although he lives in Kent and works in Leicester Square, because he plays football on a pitch not far from the pub on Friday evenings.
“I think this is symptomatic of how people are treated by these big corporations in their rush to turn our unique pub culture in London into chains in ‘trendy’ areas,” he said. “Does all the fervour around the rise of Silicon Roundabout in Old street sound the death knell of all local businesses in the area?”