Hundreds sign petition to save Limehouse pub from council sale

Landlord John Fell with some of his regular customers launch a campaign to save The Old Ship pub, Ba

Landlord John Fell with some of his regular customers launch a campaign to save The Old Ship pub, Barnes Street. - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of punters have signed a petition to save their beloved Limehouse pub, which the furious landlord says was put up for sale by Tower Hamlets Council without his knowledge.

John Fell, who runs The Old Ship in Barnes Street, says locals suspect “discrimination” from the local authority because the boozer hosts weekly gay nights.

“It’s not a gay pub as such - just a couple nights a week,” the 58-year-old said. “We serve the whole community. But there’s talk we’re being discriminated against, that the gay equation comes into it.

“I don’t know why the council’s put the lease up for sale, and it’s worrying that they might use it for ‘alternative use’.

“If it was a big building worth millions, or a derelict building, I could understand it – but we’re open seven days a week and we’re here for everyone.”

John took over the pub from his friend in June 2012. Because he didn’t own the lease, he signed a temporary agreement with the council.

“I know I’ve got no legal right here, but it’s a proper pub now.” He said. “This isn’t just my business – this is my home.

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“Then, out of the blue, the council puts the lease up for sale. I only found out about it when I read about it in a trade magazine called The Publican.”

John launched a petition to save the pub last week, and there are already 450 signatures. He plans to deliver it to the council later this month.

A council spokeswoman insisted the pub’s gay nights have nothing to do with the lease being sold, and pointed out the council was ranked as the most gay-friendly local authority by gay-rights pressure group Stonewall last month.

She added the authority is not trying to close the venue, but wants to sell its freehold interest in several pubs in the borough to invest in other areas, such as affordable housing.

“The pubs are let on commercial leases and will continue to operate, but owned by the private sector rather than the council,” she said. “Any future use of the properties after they have been sold will be subject to negotiations and agreements between the leaseholders and the new owners.”

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