A friendly letter to the owner of JD Wetherspoons who is about to call Last Orders on our local north London pub, The Coronet.
We don’t know each other and we’ve never met, but I visit your house twice a week.
This is the public house known as The Coronet, on Holloway Road in north London, a part of your JD Wetherspoon chain and a part of life for many of my friends.
A dozen of us head there from a local school pitch after our midweek football match, as we have done for twenty years. And after every Arsenal home game a bunch of us are back for post-match analysis with several hundred others.
Thank you for giving the kiss of life to the shabby grandeur of this one-time Savoy Theatre, this place where we ponder the roles we had planned for life’s stage and the ones we still dream about.
Can a pub be a spiritual home? The Coronet understands us. Maybe because we’re so alike. It used to have ambition, was going places, constantly reinventing itself — theatre, cinema, bingo hall. Until finally it got over itself, and settled down with a pint.
Tim, you’ve got good taste. I’m glad that after you read George Orwell claim the best pubs had no background music, you vowed to have none in yours. No loud music denying us the chance to hear each other rambling on. Few leering screens to pull our attention away from each other.
A dimly lit hive humming with laughter, a capacious cathedral to hold our fragile faith in each other. And, lately, a very nice new carpet.
On the mornings when the internet on our street is having a bad day, us homeworkers can wonder in to borrow your broadband, refilling our coffee cups for ever as other clients begin a rapt meditation over their first pint. Come evening, the joint is jumping with students, a local choir, the staff of nearby businesses, all London life quenching its thirst.
Thank you for a kitchen that imagines a world where vegetarians and vegans also like food, for the value in your drinks as well as your business ethics. How you claim to pay a greater percentage than most companies in bonuses and free shares to people who work in the company.
But Tim, here’s the thing, we’ve discovered you are considering making us all homeless. That you are closing our house. That in the year of the Coronation you are going to take our Coronet away.
‘We understand that customers and staff will be disappointed.’ says your spokesperson.
‘Disappointment’ does not come near it, spokesperson. How about ‘devastated’? Or ‘distraught’?
Tim, you know better than anyone the vital social role of a local pub. ‘For a lot of people,’ as you’ve said, ‘It’s their only trip out.’ (Point taken, when I look at some of my mates.)
No-one can put a price on the social treasure invisibly stored in this community asset that this community does not own. You hold it in trust for us Tim. This hallowed ground, where the oversold virtues of virtual culture can never compensate for the eccentric presence of a group of friends talking, drinking, laughing and crying… about everything in general and nothing in particular.
Perhaps you know the poet Carol Ann Duffy’s lament for the spirit of the great British pub when she goes in search of the mythic John Barleycorn. Despite all reports of his end, he is alive and well.
‘Scythed down, he crawled, knelt, stood.
I saw him in the Crow, Newt, Stag, all weathers, noon or night.
I saw him in the Feathers, Salutation, Navigation, Knot, the Bricklayer’s Arms, Hop Inn, the Maypole and the Regiment, the Horse and Groom, the Dog and Duck, the Flag.
And where he supped the past lived still.
And where he sipped the glass brimmed full.
He was in the Kings Head and Queen’s Arms. I saw him there:
Green Man, well-born, spellbound, charming one, John Barleycorn.’
Tim, don’t evict John Barleycorn from The Coronet on Holloway Road. Instead come and meet him with us over a pint one night.
You have nearly a thousand pubs but we have just the one, our lovely Coronet. Your spokesperson says you visit twenty pubs a week, ‘interacting with staff and customers’. Come and interact with us, here in Holloway, one evening after a match?
Perhaps we could buy you a pint and persuade you to think again.