CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Friends see wake cancelled after sudden closure of The Constitution pub

Regulars protest against refurb

14 February, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

THE sudden closure of The Constitution – one of Camden Town’s last traditional pubs – has left a group of friends without a venue for a wake.

The watering hole in St Pancras Way shut last on Tuesday after being bought by pub chain Youngs. Youngs told staff on Tuesday they had to go and all events booked were cancelled.

Bridget Coates had organised a wake for her friend Suzana Korpar-Migrenne for the coming weekend.

Ms Korpar-Migrenne had moved from Camden Town to Paris to be with her French husband and died of stomach cancer aged 50 a year ago. As many of her London-based friends were unable to travel to her funeral in France, they organised a London wake to mark the one-year anniversary – and chose her favourite pub.

The closure means they have had to find alternative venues at short notice due to more than 50 people having booked tickets on the Eurostar from Paris to attend.

Ms Coates said: “We were told last week there could be a problem – I had gone into the pub to chat about decorations. Then I heard it was closed, and that was that. “It is hard to find a place in the middle of Camden on a Saturday with just a week’s notice. “The Con was her favourite pub and we wanted to celebrate her life there. We wanted her memorial to be in The Con as she loved the place.”

On Sunday, staff and regulars gathered outside to say goodbye to the pub and share memories. Many customers say they will never step foot back in The Con when it reopens and are organising a boycott to show the depth of feeling against Youngs. They add they fear that the popular cellar bar, used for intimate gigs and shows, will not be kept open once the pub is refurbished.

Assistant manager Penney Sambridge lived in rooms upstairs. She has lost her job and been made homeless by the sudden closure. She said: “I am completely devastated. Youngs say they bought the place as ‘vacant’ but that is simply not true. My stuff is still upstairs. It was my home. I am now sofa surfing and without a job. I am completely devastated.”

Bar staff member Zoe Fraser, who also lived upstairs, added: “The people who worked and drank here are a family to me. I have nowhere now to live and no job to go to, with absolutely no notice.” In response to the New Journal’s article last week, Youngs posted on social media that the pub needed to close “due to there being some material health and safety shortcomings and limited statutory certification in place, we have had no choice but to close the pub with immediate effect”, a claim staff deny.

Ms Sambridge said: “That’s not true. The pub was very well run and maintained, had everything it needed to trade and there’s just no way it could have been open the day before if that wasn’t the case.”

‘More than a place to drink’

ELROY Garcia promoted Club Limbo, pictured above, playing surf rock, garage punk and rockabilly in The Constitution’s cellar bar – and has told the New Journal how important the space was for the huge number of acts who appear there.

He said: “The nights there are so well attended – and because of its size, you would get a lot of events that would not work elsewhere so well.” These included a blues jam that ran every week for 20 years and attracted many older people to play music together, a weekly jazz night, a comedy night as well as DJ-led events. Regular Peter Wooding said The Con’s role in the area should not be underestimated.

He said: “This was our community centre. The residents’ associations would meet for their get-togethers. It was so much more than a place to have a drink. Because of the size of the cellar bar, you had people doing unusual stuff.”

Ed Lee, who has been drinking in The Constitution since the early 1980s, recalled how the pub’s football team helped keep a community together.

He said: “There is a generation of younger people who all came in as kids, people like my son who grew up round here. Because of the cost of housing, this generation has been forced to move away – but they all come back each week to play football for The Constitution. They would come from all over London, back to the place they grew up. The pub helped keep people together and keep in touch with their community.”

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