Cross Kings shut, Stag’s Head is next
By Darryl Chamberlain
22 July 2010, 20:34
Britain’s pub companies aren’t the most popular firms in the land. With their love of crap beer, high prices and bland boozers, drinkers aren’t in the habit of toasting their names with nut-brown ale.
But North London has just lost one music venue and looks set to lose another thanks to disputes with a company whose way of doing business has been branded “a disaster for British pubs”.
The Cross Kings was once a haven of good taste in the rapidly-gentrifying back streets behind King’s Cross station.
Once a bar for leering backpackers out to get smashed and get laid, it had been transformed into a much-loved spot for new bands and up-and-coming comedians to ply their trade, while by day its clientele ranged from self-conscious hipsters to older drinkers in their Sunday best.
Adored by performers and regulars, the Cross Kings should have had a rosy future, particularly with Central Saint Martins art college due to move into a new campus across York Way next year.
But it’s now boarded up after a dispute with Enterprise Inns, the Cross Kings’ management complaining about being “bled dry” by the firm on its Facebook page.
Despite the Cross Kings’ busy diary of events, they say they were given just a week’s notice before the bailiffs’ arrival on 9 July. It is not known what Enterprise’s plans for the building are.
A couple of miles further down the Regent’s Canal, the waters are no less choppy for the Stag’s Head—still in business at the time of writing, but only just.
Tucked away down a Hoxton backstreet, this unassuming local has also become a favourite on London’s live circuit. But its management is handing the keys back to Enterprise on 8 August, complaining of an “unrealistic rent increase and high beer prices”.
Its Facebook page complains: “When you’re tied to a brewery that refuses to support you and shows this by increasing rent… there is little way out.”
The loss of the Stag’s Head will be keenly felt locally, just weeks after nearby Barden’s Boudoir closed its doors.
So what is going on when successful venues such as these are having to close?
Last year, a committee of MPs said the UK’s big pub companies —such as Enterprise—should face a competition inquiry over the way they treat their pubs, adding that many cases amounted to “downright bullying”.
In particular, they criticised the so-called “beer tie”, where pubs are forced to buy beer from their owners, often at inflated prices. The Campaign For Real Ale says this can add 50p to the price of a pint.
Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland—the chair of parliament’s all-party Save The Pub Group—said: “I’m afraid the way the model has been operated by Enterprise and others has been a disaster for British pubs.
“Frankly, the sooner it changes… the better.”
There could be change on the way. The Office of Fair Trading is investigating the pub market, while the government wants pub companies to announce reforms by next summer.
Any changes will be too late for the Cross Kings and the Stag’s Head..