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Thousands sign up to back Soho pub’s ‘last stand’

Bid to protect West End landmark as landlord faces being forced out

10 May, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Alastair Choat, right, with daughter Hollie and former landlord Norman Balon outside The Coach & Horses

MORE than 10,000 people have backed a petition to save the famous Coach & Horses pub with just weeks to go until its landlord is forced out.

The publican of the famous Soho pub, Alastair Choat, and his daughter Hollie, are making a “last stand” to protect the West End landmark.

The Coach, as it is known, in Greek Street was once run by London’s “rudest landlord”, Norman Balon, and was the setting of the famous Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell play by Keith Waterhouse.

A Fuller’s takeover is expected to go ahead next month at which point Mr Choat said the pub “as we know it will be gone”.

The petition says: “Freeholders Fuller’s are threatening to not renew the lease for Alastair Choat, the current landlord. Alastair and his daughter Hollie have run the Coach & Horses for the past 12 years and have turned the pub into a thriving family business… If Fuller’s take over they will very likely turn the pub into a soulless chain outfit and strip it of its unique character and spirit, and we don’t want this to happen.”

The petition says the pub “is one of the last beating hearts that keep Soho’s community together”, adding: “This is what we are trying to protect.”

The petition calls for a change in the legislation to allow landlords to claim premises if a business is successful.

Mr Choat said Fuller’s were looking to take full control of the pub because he had built it into a successful business.

“We also want government to change the pub code of practice that the government have split for big pub companies and small pub companies, as it should be the same for the whole industry – as it is in the financial service and in the press industry.”

Labour councillors are supporting the campaign and Soho Labour councillor Pancho Lewis has requested Westminster back the campaign at a council meeting last week.

David Harvey, the council’s cabinet member for economic development, education and skills, agreed to write to Fuller’s requesting a meeting and agreed to sign the petition.

A Fuller’s statement said: “The Coach & Horses is an amazing and historic pub in Soho and it should be one of the gems of our estate. As a result, we will be bringing it into our managed estate and we will be making a significant financial investment in this fantastic site.

“We will be restoring it to its former ­glory and retaining all of the features that have made it such a famous pub. “The restoration work will bring it up to a very high standard and we will be reopening it as soon as possible as a welcoming pub for Soho literati and tourists alike. We have a history of preserving iconic pubs and this will be no exception.”

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