Saturday, September 17, 2011

Because bland is best

I rarely get involved in rows about small shops closing because usually the reason is quite clear: the shops or businesses in question do not serve customers as those customers would wish it and so they have to close. Or, as in the case of the late lamented Travel Books in Notting Hill, it really is the non-customers' fault. That bookshop was hit by the curse of being a tourist attraction. Ever since Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts mooned at each other in that film, people went to look at the shop (I know because I have been asked for directions several times), photographed each other but bought nothing. No doubt they also drove away bone fide customers. Sad but true.

However, this story really annoyed me. I know and like Gaby's. It is a cafe rather than a restaurant and the prices reflect that. The food is good, a mixture of Middle Eastern and East European Jewish, the staff are friendly and the place is highly successful with Londoners and visitors who often complain with some justification that it is hard to find anything affordable that is not part of a chain to eat in.

So what is about to happen? Well, it is about to be forced to close down
Gaby's Deli near Leicester Square will close after Westminster council chiefs forced through a planning application.

The application, made by planning consultants Montagu Evans on behalf of freeholders Gascoyne Holdings Ltd, was passed at a planning sub-committee meeting last night, despite petitions from members of the public.

The other shops that will be forced to close are a newsagents, a theatre ticket booth and a souvenir shop.
To be honest, I am not that bothered about the others. They come and they go but Gaby's is an institution and part of the remaining charm of that area, rapidly destroyed by Westminster City Council and Gascoyne Holdings Ltd.

And for sick-making, hypocritical self-justification, you cannot beat the following two statements:
However, Montagu Evans today said: "Gascoyne Holdings Ltd has a very varied portfolio and is one of the biggest supporters of small shops. The proposals we're looking at will hugely improve the visual of Charing Cross Road. We don't know what restaurant is going to move in, but they said they would be seeking a tenant similar to the calibre of Strada or Côte."

Robert Davis, the planning sub-comittee chairman, said: "The extension will significantly improve the look and feel of St Martin's Court and the surrounding area, and in the long term these benefits will outweigh the loss of the existing retail units.

"Because of this the committee granted conditional permission."
But, of course. You support small shops by closing them down and seeking instead a tenant that is part of a bland, boring chain. Exactly how would that improve the look and feel of St Martin's Court and the surrounding area?

It might be worth noting that Gascoyne Holdings Ltd is largely the Cecil family as headed by the Marquess of Salisbury.


  1. And this is why I always take sandwiches when I have to visit the Stinking Wen!

  2. What an interesting set of accounts!

  3. Thank you, Nigel. I hope you don't visit us too often.

  4. Indeed, Edward. Do you draw any conclusions? I am not an accountant.

  5. A shame I'm sure, but they are the freeholders, didn't you say?

    So it's, erm, their property.


  6. I guess I was having a go at Westminster City Council more than the freeholders. That may not have been obvious to some readers. Must try harder.