Historic Holloway pub taken over by coffee shop chain

TIME has been called on an historic independent pub that has become the latest high street stalwart to be taken over by a ubiquitous coffee shop chain.

Bartenders at The Gaff, in Holloway Road, formerly the Old King’s Head, which dates back to the 19th century, pulled their last pints on Sunday January 23 before demolition crews moved in last Monday to gut the place.

The venue, which had been rebranded as a rock bar in a bid to boost its fortunes in recent years and had built up a loyal clientele of regulars, will reopen as a Costa Coffee next month.

Garry McGowan, 48, the pub’s manager, said they had only been given a few days notice to vacate the premises before the workmen arrived – because Costa Coffee was intent on opening up before the end of the tax year.

He said: “We didn’t get the notice we were expecting. Costa Coffee insisted on getting in as soon as possible.

“It’s a shame that a small, independent music venue is being replaced by another coffee shop. We have disappeared off the map just as Holloway Road is becoming a little more alternative. Although it did have a massive fault as a live music venue – the stage was in the wrong place.”

Mr McGowan is now looking for a new venue, while many of the gigs already scheduled will now be held at the Boston Arms, in Junction Road, Tufnell Park.

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John Cryne, chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in north London, said: “It’s very disappointing but Costa Coffee probably has deeper pockets than an independent pub owner.

“There’s been a terrible loss of pubs all over north London. It’s made worse that it’s happened without people having the chance to object.

“It’s quite easy for somebody, if a building is a public house, to change its use to a restaurant, which I expect Costa Coffee has done. That’s a weakness in planning law we would like to see done away with.”

Despite its unassuming exterior, the pub was well known for a stunning carved wooden panel inside. Mr McGowan said the woodwork was a replica – but had nonetheless been judged by a furniture expert to be worth around �10,000.

Alan Fry, 59, of nearby Russet Crescent, was worried when he saw the place being ripped apart – but Costa Coffee has promised to keep the woodwork intact. Mr Fry said: “The panelling was a work of art. When it was the Old King’s Head, it was a really wonderful traditional pub.”

A spokeswoman for Costa Coffee said: “We always try to incorporate original features into our new design to maintain the look and feel of a property. The wall panelling and other features will remain.”