When l first moved in Marylebone, l could take a left or right immediately from my front door, or even in front of me of even behind me and there was a pub. So you could easily have a pub crawl without having to go very far on and off Bell Street, NW1. Indeed from my doorstep, you need only go hundred metres or so and you could reach seven pubs. Alas that is now down to two. So what does this all mean?
You could start a pub crawl in the locality with the Blackman’s at the corner of Daventry St and Ashmill St over 10 years ago. Yet it become the first pub that was successfully converted into residential and office space and started the trend of change of use in the pubs on and around Bell St. You could then go down the street and get your next pint in the Phoenix. This has since become a successful youth hostel though it still have a licence for a bar which a few locals still using it as a waterhole. Coming back on to Bell St, the Green Man on the corner of Edgware Rd is still a going concern, offering hostel accommodation above as well to travellers from around the world. Further up on Bell St the Brazen Head has long gone and was a popular place to watch sporting events. Now its been completely converted into residential with two flats above over the old pub area only just occupied since over the Christmas period. The old Constitution on the corner of Bell St and Cosway St has become more like a bar ( under new management again! ) called the Bell Inn and does a good business letting its flats and rooms above on Airbnb. Which now moves us onto the Perservance on Shroton Street which recently had its planning application of residential conversion turned down. In recent time it appears the rooms upstairs are rented out on Airbnb while the pub premises lie empty. That is not surprising as the owner of the premises is asking for £70,000 rent annually when the going rate would be some £25,000. And finally we have the Globe opposite the Seashell, which is still operating as a Pub concern but has certainly gone up market with the business now aimed at the weekday trade of French bankers in the neighbourhood from the BNP Paribas HQ in London nearby. This is a far cry from the old stable of footie and the cheapest beer for a mile, which Sean the previous landlord operated when he run the show.
We have saw a similar trend with pub houses on the other side of Marylebone station, with a public house premises along Linhope Street, where we managed to save it under a listing as a Community Asset, showing how to save your local pub, yet it still lies empty after four years ago when the new owner first pursed a change of use.
So as we have gone down from seven pubs to two now, on and off Bell St, is this just the sign of the times? Have drinking habits changing forever? In recent time we have had 3 public house conversion proposals only two of which has been approved but the other premise lies empty. What is clear is that the margins made in running pubs are very low, particularly when you operating on your own and not within a huge chain offering cheaper beer costs. Furthermore the premises usually get higher values as other uses like offices and certainly residential when converted and rented out. So the finances of the once cherished public house have more than anything determined the fate of the local pub. And finally if we were going to challenge the whole saga, it should have been when the Blackman’s pub on Daventry St & Ashmill St, first put in their application for change of use over 10 years ago. That would have put a stop on pub closures everything else in the locality.