We’ve just seen this update on the Save The Half Moon Facebook group, and it makes for depressing reading with the Fuller’s brewery now emphatically ruling out any chance of the popular pub returning as a music venue.
Peter Blair from the campaign group, along with Giles from the Herne Hill forum, met Fuller’s representatives, and were taken inside the beleaguered pub.
The meeting was cordial, but when it came to the matter of restoring live music to this historic venue, Fuller’s lay down the law, saying that they had no interest in running a music pub – no matter what the community wants – and that they’d walk away if they lost their planning application.
However, there is still some hope, as a number of other parties have put forward bids to Dulwich Estate to take on the leasehold of the Half Moon, and some of these include proposals to keep it as a music venue.
There is also a petition – currently signed by over 7,000 people – asking for the venue to remain a live music venue.
Scroll down for the full statement from Peter Blair. Below can be seen two photos of the pub interior (© Peter Blair).
LATEST NEWS: This morning, Giles (Herne Hill Forum) and I met with the Area Manager and the Head of PR from Fuller’s. I can report that the meeting was very civil, we shook hands, and we were taken inside the pub and shown Fuller’s plans in more detail. I also took a couple of rather average photos, although it was rather dark inside with the boarded-up windows.
What state is the pub in? The pub’s interior is badly in need of a deep clean and the inside smells rather musty. However, all its historic fixtures and fittings, including the wonderful snug bar, are intact. The big mystery, which the Fuller’s themselves alluded to, is quite why it has been shut since August 2013.
What did we find out? We were shown Fuller’s ‘look book’ for the pub, alongside the floor plans. On the plus side, there is a strong commitment by them to restore the historic fabric of the listed bars. They also said that they would try to source food supplies locally, and that this might include stocking guest beers from local brewers.
On the negative side, the reality of the massive footprint of their planned new kitchen totally precludes any performance space. They also said that they did not expect to attract customers from outside a 2-mile radius, and were particularly targeting families (mums in particular) with young children as part of their business model.
We pointed out that Half Moon Lane had very low footfall. Make of this what you will, but it’s clear that by abandoning the Half Moon as a destination venue, then the Fuller’s Half Moon will be directly targeting Herne Hill’s existing customer base, including the daytime clientele of much-loved local businesses such as Cafe Provencal, the Lido Cafe, Blackbird Bakery, and Pullens.
What about the music? We were told unequivocally that Fuller’s is not interested in running a music pub. We were also told that if they lost their planning application they would walk away, as they were not interested in operating the pub on a different business model.
Our understanding is that gaining planning permission is also a pre-condition of them taking over the leasehold for the building. I will gloss over the fact that we were asked what we thought of them putting up pictures of acts that had performed at the pub as part of their refurbishment.
Why exactly they took over the leasehold for a Half Moon brand that is based on a live music offer is a bit of a puzzle, although the area manager did state that he had been watching live music in London for a number of years and had never once come across the Half Moon.
What difference did the meeting make? I would like to take the opportunity to thank Fuller’s for meeting with us and being open about their plans. The situation remains that their planning application will remove a community music and performance venue that has been at the centre of Herne Hill life for over 40 years.
Fuller’s did not at any point in the meeting today demonstrate any particular understanding of, or empathy with, our community’s affinity for our music venue, or indeed the character of the pub beyond its listed aspects. This is not a good sign.
They are an outside organisation who will run the pub along the same lines as the rest of their estate. Their plans for the pub need to be greatly improved if they are going to work for rather than against our wider community interests.
I think we all can see that Fuller’s are offering a way to get the Half Moon reopened in 2016. We all want to see the pub reopened full stop. However, if we accept Fuller’s current plans, then we must also accept that we will never see bands at the Half Moon again, we will never watch comedy there, we will never watch theatre, or film, or opera, or Rollapalooza cycling, or see our local children grow up and perform there, or see Stevie Smith play the blues. The pub will be open, but the things that we love and value it for will be gone.
Although we have yet to see the agenda, we have been told that the Fuller’s planning application will go before Southwark Council’s Planning Sub-Commitee B on 8 March at 7pm. If we can get the planning application overturned at this point, then this opens up new possibilities, including taking the pub into community ownership.
It may even be the case that Fuller’s has a change of heart on live music and comes back with revised plans. You should also be aware of the fact that a number of parties put forward bids to Dulwich Estate to take on the leasehold of the Half Moon, and that a number of these alternative bids were made on a pro-music basis. Our firm belief after the meeting today is that overturning the current planning application will take us forward as a community and not backward in getting the Half Moon reopened.
I would be delighted to know what everyone here thinks. We do have a very difficult few weeks ahead in preparing to oppose the planning application, and it would be great to know that we are all still united in our support for saving our great live music and performance venue for future generations of Herne Hillians.
I shall be at the Bullfinch taproom on Rosendale Road tomorrow evening for the launch of their ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ porter in support of our campaign. Do come and say hello. I’ll bring some pin badges too!
Discuss this on the Half Moon thread on the forums.