By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter
For pub landlords Ben Martin and Tom Rees the day pubs can reopen will be special in more ways than one.
They are the new leaseholders of the historic Carlton Tavern which has just been rebuilt “brick by brick” after it was knocked down six years ago without permission.
This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the pub which some people thought would never happen.
Ben Martin who set up Homegrown Pubs with his colleague Tom Rees is looking forward to April 12 and plans to create eight to ten jobs, with more when Covid restrictions lift.
“I grew up around the area and I remember when the pub was knocked down,” he said.
Mr Martin has years of experience running pubs, including the historic Spaniard on the edge of Hampstead Heath.
Last year he was made redundant from his job as an operations manager looking after 18 pubs and started looking for his next challenge.
The only problem with the Carlton was it didn’t have a kitchen and he thought, particularly after Covid, that it was crucial for the reopening.
“It was not a viable business without a kitchen,” he said.
He was delighted when the landlords and agents agreed to install one.
Now they are planning to offer “reasonably priced classic British seasonal food” and big Sunday roasts, fish and chips and sausage and mash.
In 2015 the community was left reeling after their local boozer was knocked down without planning permission by developers.
The following year Westminster City Council forced the developers CTLX to rebuild the pub “brick by brick” exactly as it was before.
The decision came after a five day public inquiry which heard evidence from English Heritage, as well as campaigners and councillors.
The order to rebuild it as before did not include a kitchen, but now the pub will offer a range of traditional pub grub.
Mr Martin said: “The history behind it in recent years is very interesting. It’s a beautiful building.
“It has three wonderful rooms, a great bar area and a really beautiful lounge area. It’s got a good vibe,” he enthused.
The pub was built for Charrington by Frank Potter and replaced a previous pub which was destroyed by a bomb in 1918.
It was the only building in Carlton Vale which survived the Blitz during World War Two.
Mr Martin said: “Because of the pandemic Tom and I had quite a lot of time to work on it. We have got a lot of business experience in running pubs.
“We are going great guns and we will be ready in April.”
He added: “It looks like a 100-year-old building. They have salvaged some of the bar and it looks great.”
And they are busy working on the beer garden which has the original cobble entrance to the nearby Paddington Recreation Ground.
It means they can open as soon as pubs are allowed to open outside spaces with strict social distancing rules.
He said they can’t wait to welcome the campaigners who fought so hard to save the pub – perhaps with a gathering in June if rules allow.
“One hundred per cent we want the people who fought to feel welcome here,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of loyalty to the pub already. I know the area really well and Tom lives nearby.”
“I am confident that we will create a great space that people will come.”
And members of the Hampstead and Westminster Hockey Club are amongst some of the customers who are booking space when the pub reopens.
Unusually the sports club has shower facilities in the pub and had regarded it affectionately as their “clubhouse”.
Pizza Express founder, the late Peter Boizot, was once the leaseholder and fostered the club’s link with the pub.
“We really want to support our community, “ said Mr Martin.
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