Petition saves Limehouse pub from council sell-off
PUBLISHED: 17:52 30 May 2013 | UPDATED: 10:17 03 June 2013
More than 1,000 angry punters have forced Tower Hamlets Council into a u-turn over plans to sell off a popular local boozer.
John Fell, landlord at The Old Ship in Barnes Street, Limehouse, said an Advertiser story prompted hundreds of people to come forward to try to save the pub from closure after the council put it up for sale without his knowledge.
When they heard of the plan, locals suspected “discrimination” from the local authority because of weekly gay nights held at the bar.
But the council refuted the allegation – and has now handed John a 15 year lease for the premises.
He said: “After your article they came down and said ‘we are not a homophobic council’. That’s the first thing they said! Next thing they offered a 15 year lease.”
And the petition quickly attracted 1,200 signatures.
“Word got round and people were coming from all sorts of places to sign. It was quite amazing really.
“There was such an outcry from locals. People said they have read this in the Advertiser and ‘where can I sign the petition?’”
John took over the pub in May 2012, and signed a temporary agreement with the council because he didn’t own the lease.
But he was shocked when he read in a trade magazine that it had been put up for sale by the local authority without anyone telling him.
“They were going to build apartments,” said John. “I had to show people around who were interested – it was very stressful.
“Then I gave the council the petition and then two weeks later they phoned me and said the pub’s yours. They said ‘common sense prevailed!’”
And he now says he is “very confident” about the future of the pub, which has been there since 1820. A spokesman for Tower Hamlets Council confirmed it was in negotiation over the exact terms of the lease.
“The council recognises the value that pubs bring to support a cohesive community and the Old Ship is no exception as a well-established social venue for local residents,” he added.