This Famous East End Boozer Wants You To Save It From Developers

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 18 months ago
This Famous East End Boozer Wants You To Save It From Developers
a tall, beautiful pub on the croner of a road with 'freehouse' on a big blue sign
The owner of this Commercial Street pub, theatre and music venue, says that a developer is once again threatening its livelihood. Image: The George Tavern

Legendary east London venue The George Tavern has batted off a developer before, and now it's got another fight on its hands... with the same developer.

The 200-year-old pub in Shadwell is owned and operated by artist Pauline Forster, and has hosted performances by a glittering array of talent, including Nick Cave, Amy Winehouse and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

But the adjoining disused nightclub, Stepney's — plus a function room that's part of the Grade II listed pub — are owned by Swan Housing Group, which also owns and manages the Exmouth Estate, adjacent to the pub.

the beautifully distressed room had various armchairs, curtains and chaise longues dotted around
The George's function room space, which is owned by Swan, in better times. It has now been wilfully neglected, according to the George's owner. Image: The George Tavern

Forster accuses Swan of 'wilful neglect' of these buildings, in order to get planning permission to demolish them, and put offices on the site, then continue building blocks of flats down Commercial Road.

The George's function room has previously been used for everything from fringe theatre shows to music videos, while Stepney's, which was built in the 1960s, was used to film Pulp's seminal single, Common People (apparently the building has London's last remaining light-up dance floor):

Forster told Londonist:

I have over the years reported [Swan's] wilful neglect to Historic England and Tower Hamlets Council, with no effect... They should not be allowed to get away with this and expect to be rewarded with planning permission to demolish.

Forster also claims that should the planning application be successful, Swan's redevelopment will 'severely disrupt the venue's ability to trade', due to the prospect of noise complaints from new residents.

a water damaged part of the theatre
What the function room looks like now. Image: George Tavern

Swan Housing Association rejects this, saying the scheme has been designed so as not to affect The George. It told Londonist:

A new community arts centre will be located adjacent to the pub, which an independent acoustic consultant has confirmed will have no impact and has been designed to co-exist without affecting any activities in the pub. We want the new residents to be able to enjoy The George Tavern along with the regulars.

The George is asking people to email their objection to Swan's planning application, using this step-by-step guide.

Back in 2016, the pub successfully won a legal battle to stop Swan from building flats on the site of Stepney's. This followed a campaign that saw the likes of Kate Moss and Ian McKellen wear 'Save the George' t shirts.

Last Updated 15 March 2022

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