‘Saving pubs for 20 years’: Pub landlord collective celebrates anniversary

An independent group of South London pubs which were saved from closure is run by four friends who are celebrating their 20th anniversary as industry veterans.

Isaac Tooby, Michael Robinson, Neil Watson and Shane Ranasinghe are legends in the pub scene.

With two decades of success operating pubs throughout South London – such as The White Horse in Peckham, The Roebuck in Borough and Grove House Tavern in Camberwell – they have managed to take ownership of underused pubs, some of which were on the brink of being shut down by developers.

The Roebuck pub in Great Dover Street, Southwark, is owned by the Parched collective (Picture: Paul Winch-Furness)

The collective of friends known as Parched most recently opened The Earl of Derby in New Cross.

Between 2011 and 2017 they fought the previous landowner of the Montpelier in Peckham and were able to save the pub from being turned into blocks of flats. Similarly, in 2021 they saved Grove House Tavern from a large developer.

Shane Ranasinghe, who lives near The Railway pub in Greyhound Lane, Streatham, said: “There can’t be a better feeling for a community than seeing their pub thriving after being close to disappearing.

“Once a pub closes it is often, correctly, assumed that is the last time it will trade. We are trying to buck that trend and bring pubs back to their communities.”

Parched has always been on the lookout for preserving pubs and their communities. The lease to their first pub, The Roebuck, was bought in November 2003.

Neil Watson, who lives in Peckham, said: “South London is a unique area made up of lots of old villages very close to each other. They all have very strong community ties from within such a big city. Its pubs are a true representation of that. 

“We all run the pubs nearest to our homes, which means we are the locals and know what the locals want from their pub.

“When we know an area and community well and we have confidence a pub can thrive, we throw everything at trying to get the keys to ensure we can keep it going.”

The collective said its ethos from the start, having worked in pubs and bars for many years, was to be independent owner operators, use local suppliers, restore original design features, support up-and-coming talent and to be community focussed – forming a place where everyone is welcome.

Co-founder Isaac Tooby said: “We always endeavour to curate a space and atmosphere that’s both welcoming and safe to every part of the local community, thus our pubs truly reflect and represent the fantastic people of South London.”

Parched said it would continue its mission to help save London’s pubs. If the right landmark pub comes available that is underused by the community, the team vows that “is always ready to give it the love and attention the community deserves”.

As part of the 20th anniversary celebration, Parched will be hosting a series of events across the sites to celebrate. There will be big DJ nights, quizzes, beer festivals and weekly knockdown 2003 prices across all the venues.

Pictured top: Parched founders Isaac Tooby, Michael Robinson, Neil Watson and Shane Ranasinghe (Picture: Paul Winch-Furness)

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