East Barnet village is in danger of losing its one and only public house: The Prince of Wales is due to close in mid-February and the premises are in the process of being sold.
Local residents and traders fear that the pub might be purchased by a property developer and redeveloped as flats given the size of the site which includes the pub’s own car park.
Stonegate Group, which spent £290,000 refurbishing the Prince of Wales in the summer of 2022, told the Barnet Society that the pub is to close. Stonegate said the group had no plans to re-open it as licensed premises and the process of selling the property had already begun.
Until recent years there were three pubs within East Barnet village and news of the closure of The Prince of Wales has shocked the local community.
There has been a public house on the same site – close to the junction of Church Hill Road and Cat Hill – since 1876. The first licensee of The Prince of Wales was William Jackson who built houses in the adjoining Jackson Road.
Roger Aitken, a regular pub goer and strong supporter of the Campaign for Real Ale, who lives in Jackson Road, was saddened to hear of the closure and like other locals hoped there might be some chance of mounting a campaign to maintain the premises as a public house.
“This is a great shame. Stonegate re-opened The Prince of Wales in October 2022 after giving it what they said was a right royal refurbishment.
“So far, we have no idea what its future might be. One suggestion is that might close for six months and then re-open.
“But given the rate at which pubs are closing across the country it seems doubtful it will be bought by another pub company or turned into a restaurant and the danger is it might be sold to a property company and the site redeveloped as flats.
“East Barnet councillor Phil Cohen has re-assured us that he will see if steps can be taken to look into whether it can be registered as a community asset so that the community do at least get a chance to have a say on what might happen.”
News of the pub’s closure is a real disappointment to Louisa Bayman (left) who was hoping to have lunch there to celebrate her 90th birthday with her daughter Corinne Stewart.
“We tried to book a table for my birthday on 13 February, but they said we couldn’t as the pub is to close on 14 February. I come here regularly with my daughter so you can see how disappointed I am.”
Across the road from The Prince of Wales, Peter Pamment, proprietor of the Power Point electrical shop, said it was very sad to see East Barnet losing another prominent business.
“The Prince of Wales is a real landmark, but you can see a prominent site like that appealing to a property developer and becoming a block of flats.
“East Barnet village has been having a very tough time as a local shopping centre and this could be yet another setback.”
Stonegate Group, which describes itself as the largest pub group in the UK, has a vast portfolio of 4,500 licenced sites – 1,289 are managed sites and 3,284 are leased and tenanted businesses.
Given the increasing burden of paying off interest on the dozen or so major acquisitions of other pub groups since Stonegate was formed in 2010, there was media speculation some months ago that the group might sell off 20 to 25 per cent of its estate.
When The Prince of Wales was refurbished in 2022 the rear garden area was improved together with a transformation of the interior and the introduction of new menu.
According to the Hertford census members of the Jackson family ran a beer house on the site in the early 1880s.
Roger Aitken said he thought that Mr Jackson – who was buried in the graveyard at St Mary’s Church further along Church Hill Road – would be turning in his grave if he knew The Prince of Wales was about to close.
“The fate of the pubs in East Barnet village is a sad tale. The Drum closed in 2006 and around the same time we lost the Cat and Lantern and before that after a fire in 1955 we lost another pub in Cat Hill which is now a butchery.
“At least it is still possible to get a drink at the British Legion club, but it won’t be the same if The Prince of Wales does close for good and isn’t replaced with another pub.”