Last orders at the Old Red Lion

Written by  Thursday, 19 February 2015 14:11
The Old Red Lion public house is to close The Old Red Lion public house is to close
Another of High Barnet’s oldest public houses is to close – the Old Red Lion, at the bottom of Barnet Hill, is to serve its last pint on Saturday 28 February, following its sale by the Hertford brewers McMullen and Sons Ltd for housing development.

But rumours that the same fate awaits the White Lion in St Albans Road have been officially denied by Fuller’s Brewery, which says it sees a viable future for its long-established public house despite the fact that it is advertising for a new publican.

The loss of the Old Red Lion will be a blow to the community spirit of Underhill as its follows the departure of Barnet Football Club, which played its last game at the Underhill stadium in April 2013, following its move to the Hive stadium in Camrose Avenue, Edgware.

The Old Red Lion, which has been serving McMullen beers since 1890, was originally owned by the football club, which sold the property to the brewery for £3,200 in 1957.

Peter Furness-Smith, McMullen’s managing director, said an offer “for an undisclosed sum” had been accepted for the building because the number of customers had “declined significantly” since the closure of the football ground.

Despite being extremely well run, the pub had not been successful in attracting more local residents.

We have sold the building unconditionally for redevelopment.

“We have sold the building unconditionally for redevelopment. We never like selling or closing pubs but we intend to use the proceeds of the sale to fund ongoing refurbishment of our existing estate of 140 pubs as well as to fund new acquisitions.”

Lorraine West, the manager of the Old Red Lion, told the Barnet Society that the pub’s closure was a sad moment for her and her staff of four. “But the company are looking after us.”

McMullen hope that customers will switch to its other nearby public house the Queens Arms, next to Barnet Odeon.

There have been rumours for some weeks that the White Lion pub was threatened with closure, and that the site in St Albans Road might be sold off for housing.

The White Lion on St. Albans RoadThe White Lion on St. Albans RoadThis speculation was denied by Fuller’s Brewery. It confirmed that the publicans for the last four years have just left, and that the company is advertising for a new landlord, but at a higher rent, which some loyal customers claim is unlikely to improve the pub’s viability.

Regulars fear that if the pub is considered no longer viable and has to close, Fuller’s will be able to claim that redevelopment is the only alternative. Behind the building is a big yard, and the site as a whole could accommodate a large number of houses or flats, which would be highly profitable.

In a statement to the Barnet Society, Fuller’s Brewery said the company had no plans to close the White Lion. “Whenever there is a change of tenancy we get rumours like this but we are not proposing to close the pub and we believe it has a viable future.”

Robin Bishop, chair of the Society’s planning and environment group, says the White Lion offers more than a pleasant, traditional ambience for drinking real ale – though that’s not a bad reason to preserve it!

It is one of Chipping Barnet's dwindling number of former coaching inns – complete with former stable-yard – which were, along with Barnet Market, fundamental to our town’s existence.

It was probably built soon after the construction of the St.Alban’s Road by Thomas Telford in 1826, in the expectation of profits from the (then major) coaching trade.

The pub itself has some protection because it is on Barnet’s list of buildings of local significance. However, neither it nor Christ Church is within the Monken Hadley Conservation Area – surprisingly, because they abut the Conservation Area boundary and are attractive parts of the street scene for travellers arriving at, or departing from, Chipping Barnet.

The Barnet Society is discussing with council planners the possibility of extending the Conservation Area, which would give the pub further protection.

Do you care about the future of the White Lion as a drinking establishment? Or do you support retention of the building, but converted to another use such as housing?

Please post your comment, or you can email the Barnet Society direct.

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16 comments

  • Comment Link Friday, 20 February 2015 11:35 posted by Concerned local resident.

    I would like to see Barnet Council, show some balls and deny the application to convert this lovely old pub into housing.

    I also think McMullens are taking the easy way out. They could have done more to turn the fortunes of this pub around.

    Some like The gate (Great food), the Mitre and The Black Horse (great service and beer) appear to be thriving.

    McMullens have let everyone down in their haste to make a fast buck.

  • Comment Link Friday, 20 February 2015 15:31 posted by Linda OShea

    It would be a shame to lose this Pub, there are enough flats and houses being build in Barnet at the moment, please do not turn the whole area into dense housing and ruin the look of the area altogether. Let's leave the pub alone.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 25 February 2015 08:31 posted by w scott

    problem with all public houses open all day no one in them so paying for staff and services and no income should return to the old opening hours and reduce the high prices set by greedy breweries

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 25 February 2015 09:03 posted by Geoff

    Maybe now the council will start to realise the ramifications of running their local professional football club out of town.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 25 February 2015 09:54 posted by Carolyn

    Hope they improve the Queens Arms then. After cinema, staff standing outside smoking, walked in and stood at bar, waited and waited, eventually went outside and asked if anyone was serving, was told they were closed, no wish to visit again.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 26 February 2015 12:12 posted by Concerned person

    Doubt any council have 'balls' when money involved. More residents, more council tax. Shame to loose another old historical building.

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 February 2015 10:56 posted by Concerned local resident.

    How about the Barnet Society organize a concerted effort to the council to lobby against this closure when the planning application is made?

    ie loss of community asset, failure on behalf of the Brewery to actually market this pub properly.
    And what if Barnet FC do return to this site-or the site is developed for housing and therefore more potential customers.

    Either way, it would be good to at least highlight this and put the point across that local residents are not prepared to see so may buildings of this nature close.

    What next, Barnet Odeon or the few remaining pubs in the area?
    Well I live close to the Old Red Lion and I shall certainly be letting the planning department know my views.

    Finally, the delightful staff who work in there are now out of work!

  • Comment Link Sunday, 01 March 2015 22:27 posted by very concerned resident

    I live very near the pub which had recently closed. I am very concerned to hear that the pub has been sold for another building project. We are still awaiting to see what is happening with the football ground I expect now it will not be long before rows of houses will be built.
    Dread to think what it will look like but expect someone has a cunning plan.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 04 March 2015 19:31 posted by Ian Moore

    I was born in the Old Red Lion in 1953 and went over to Barnet last weekend to take some photos. My family ran this pub for the best part of 50 years. We were that busy that at weekends we would employ a full time cellerman to change barrels and send up light ales to restock. Whereas one dray delivery will nowadays be enough for several pubs we would need two just for us. When Barnet fair was in town we would at least 12 people serving. And now it closes for lack of business. How sad.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 05 March 2015 13:20 posted by Mr concerned of Barnet.

    The cunning plan is to close every community asset and replace them with houses and flats to cope with the ever expanding population.

  • Comment Link Friday, 06 March 2015 14:14 posted by Barnet - the new generation

    The problem is that these pubs arent making any money. They are empty all day and evening. They need our support? Have your social occasions in these pubs i.e birthdays, christmas even just a family gathering Then they will have a reason to stay. Pubs are business, and its not good business to run on a loss.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 11 March 2015 21:26 posted by Penny Igoe

    My friends and I met in the Old Red Lion for years but a change of bar staff and the bad beer chased us away. A great pity, the building is lovely and it's loss will be great. How many more flats are going to appear, all 'buy to let' properties making the area transient. Barnet is changing rapidly and I for one would be happy to move elsewhere. I actually live in West Finchley and we have a great residents association that has seen off quite a few property developers. You need the same in Barnet.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 15 March 2015 00:38 posted by Barnetonian

    The problem is that struggling pubs these days are offered huge sums of money by developers who want to turn them into flats. It's usually an offer they just can't refuse. Barnet Council are even worse. They will sell anything they can to meet targets and try to pay off the dreadful debt they are in. But Barnet is hanging on in there. It still has more pubs than a lot of surrounding towns and the sense of community here is still pretty strong.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 12 April 2015 09:45 posted by Karl k

    Hi I can assure you the rent is NOT being offered at a higher rent!-my wife and I were the previous landlords!-the reason why we did not re-sign was due to the ever increasing rent(we were paying quite a bit more than what is currently being offered!)-what fulers website doesn't mention is the fixtures and fittings decrease 20% a year!-and as for loyal customers being concerned that it will close, they need not worry as the pub makes far to much money for them!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 26 May 2015 17:06 posted by Mark

    Is there going to be a school on the Barnet F C site and the Old Red Lion pub was going to be converted for staff accommodation?

  • Comment Link Sunday, 12 March 2017 14:32 posted by J. G. Hetherington

    Well, one year on and the truth of Fullers' intentions is out - they are selling the pub for housing redevelopment and cashing in on its immediate capital value as residential property rather than continuing in business as a pub with modest or little annual profit. Lots of comment on here bemoaning the (then) potential loss of the pub, including from the Barnet Society itself, yet no indication that anyone tried to use the only tool in the box for communities to protect facilities they love - seeking registration of the pub as an Asset of Community Value. You've sat by and watched the pub be sold down the river, forever eradicated as a public facility, converted into private residential space.

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