Last week, Camden approved plans to convert the upper floors of The Railway pub into six flats, and to reduce the size of the pub’s floorspace by converting the raised seating area into a cycle storage facility for residents. One Railway employee has other ideas.
The original planning application from the owners – the Spirit Pub Company – snuck in over the Christmas period and no-one objected. The pub will need to close for 18 weeks during the first phase of construction work. The facade of the building will be largely unchanged, with the developers promising to reverse some of the clumsier changes of recent years, such as the blocked up windows. All the documents can be viewed here.
The Railway, as many of you will know, has a proud musical heritage, although no mention is made of this in the planning documents. Right above the pub is an open space that was Klooks Kleek – a legendary club of the 1960s that has hosted some of the biggest names in pop & rock, including Hendrix and Clapton. After Klooks Kleek closed, the downstairs became the Moonlight Club, another successful club where bands such as Joy Division, the Stone Roses and U2, in their first ever gig outside Ireland, all played.
This first floor space will be converted into office space, with the living space above being turned into self-contained flats. It is unclear whether the pub will remain in its current guise or be turned into a gastro pub.
But what if…
Francesca Dumas, who works behind the bar at The Railway, is, for want a of a finer word, distraught. Although the venue space hasn’t been used since the mid 1990s it hasn’t been used for anything else and Francesca would like to return it to its former glory. She has a bold plan to try and raise the funds to buy the whole building. Whether the Spirit Pub Company would be willing to sell is a whole other question. There’s substantial profit to be made from the residential units as well as from the pub itself and the building of course is in a prime location in West Hampstead.
Francesca’s idea is to turn the building into a community pub – retaining the ground floor much as it is with the same style of pub, bringing the venue back into use upstairs and using the upper floors as a mix of accommodation and perhaps even a museum to commemorate the musical heritage. She admits these plans are at an early stage.
There’s a protest on Monday at 5pm, although it’s not quite clear what is being protested. Already on Twitter there’s been some talk that the pub is going to close permanently, which is not the case.