The ancient Simpson’s Tavern in the City of London, which was forced into sudden closure by the landlord, has been given protection against being sold off in a decision described as a “no brainer” by the proposer of the protection order.
Like most restaurants, Simpsons was forced to close during the lockdown and says that it was seeking to negotiate a settlement on rent that the landlord was still demanding to be paid in full. A lot of landlords have been fair in treating long-standing tenants hit by the lockdown, this landlord used their rights when a debt is due to reclaim the building and lock the doors, forcing the restaurant to close just ahead of the busy Christmas period.
The closure ahead of Christmas is doubly painful as Charles Dickens knew the tavern and many of the pubs in the area, and many consider Simpson’s Tavern to be the “usual melancholy tavern” Ebenezer Scrooge visits in A Christmas Carol.
The sudden and capricious closure of this long-standing chophouse has unsurprisingly spurred a campaign to save the much loved venue, and that has (at time of writing) raised over £111,000 to fund the restaurant’s fight to reopen.
There’s also a new group set up to help save the chophouse, the Simpson’s Tavern Preservation Society, and they put in an application to have the restaurant granted protection as an Asset of Community Value.
At a meeting earlier today, the City of London’s Policy and Resources Committee met to debate if it could offer that sort of protection to the restaurant.
Normally, as anyone who has listened to them will confirm, debates at council meetings are important, but also tend to be tediously drawn out affairs. However, this time, Sir Michael Snyder, when asked to present the case simply said that this is “actually a no-brainer, and that [the committee] should just go to vote that it should be a community asset”.
The chair agreed and also noted was also useful to hold a formal vote to show that politically the City was supportive of the campaign to save Simpsons.
The vote in favour was unanimous.
The protection means the restaurant, which closed in October, cannot be sold without first providing the local community with the opportunity to bid for the building. It doesn’t necessarily mean the landlord will reopen it, but it does mean that if the landlord was hoping to profit from selling off the building, they will have to let the local community put in an offer to reopen the historic eatery, famous for its dark wood panelling and communal tables.
City of London Policy Chairman Chris Hayward later said: “Simpson’s Tavern is a City institution frequented by generations of workers and residents who have enjoyed its good food, drink and convivial atmosphere.”
“Its long history and deeply rooted status at the heart of the community means that it clearly meets the criteria for designation as an Asset of Community Value, something which must now be taken into account in any decision over its future.”
An asset of Community Value designation can be granted when a building or land is deemed to ‘further the social well-being or social interests of the community’ and must be taken into account when planning permission is sought to change the use of, or redevelop, the building.