Fancy buying the Bull & Gate? Here’s some advice.

A year ago, we wrote the following, now rather prescient, entry on the Bull & Gate: “This classic boozer has …

A year ago, we wrote the following, now rather prescient, entry on the Bull & Gate: “This classic boozer has had a bit of a makeover. For now, it seems the old whore’s lipstick is just about in place. But for how much longer?”

And so we were sorry – if not surprised – to read in yesterday’s Evening Standard that one of North London’s most famous live music venues is now on the market for £2.7 million. It has, after all, been rather quiet on recent visits.

“Sold by its owners after 32 years,” the paper reported here. “It is thought the Lynskey family agreed to sell the 17th-century building because they wanted to move on to other projects but also due to the difficulty of keeping a music venue open in the tough financial climate…estate agent Chris Bickle of Davis Coffer Lyons said the building “will obviously appeal to investors and developers”, adding: “But we very much hope to find a buyer who can continue the tradition of live music.”


Peruse the comments section for some humorous feedback on that dastardly estate agent’s use of the word “obviously”, but here we’ll concern ourself with some advice for potential buyers:

1. Don’t just turn it into flats. Remember its heritage. And if you try, we will lead the opposition.

2. Keep the pub bit but think about how to make it work in 2012. The interior is beautiful, but the recent refurb had the smell of a hotel reception, not a rock ‘n’ roll boozer. You could strip it back and ‘rough luxe’ it, like Soho’s Spuntino, or go back to basics like the Southampton, and serve ales, and home-made Scotch eggs with lashings of candle-lit atmosphere. Or how about a strong modern British menu? Kentish Town can never have enough food pubs – and what a location.

3. The separate live venue should, of course, be maintained but how can it be integrated into a more sociable area? No-one these days wants to stand in a darkened room without a bar. Whenever we’ve gone to watch a band, we’re not surprised the live venue is often empty when the tiny adjoining bar is full of punters.

4. Or how about making the live space into a more contemporary multi-arts venue? The stage would make, in addition to a platform for upcoming bands, be a perfect theatre or cinema screen too. See the Zabludowicz for inspiration (by the way – how we enjoyed their pop-up cinema on Sunday night.)

Wishful thinking all this maybe, but you know us. Someone’s got to do it. And you lot – do you agree? Disagree? Or would it really make yet another lovely block of ‘luxury’ flats?


  • Show Comments

  • youngdonkey

    I do think this is an opportunity to make this into multi-use venue in Kentish Town. I’m thinking along the lines of the Roundhouse. Not sure what the state of the ‘flats’ on top of the pub is in, but with the right investment they could be converted into workshops/studios, this would add to the already growing art/fashion/music spaces in the area.

    The pub should become an out and out restaurant, something to rival Kentish Canteen (healthy competition and variety is always good)

    BUT the live music element should be kept with a complete refurb of the live music space, modernise, install a bar and make the space attractive for acoustic sessions, jazz and folk. It would complement the Forum perfectly and even open a platform for acts to do unplugged sessions before hitting the stage there.

    If I had £2.7 million I’d do this…whip round?

    • Kentishtowner

      All valid points. We’re in total agreement. Here’s the latest from Twitter: Danmelia says “5. Book some good bands because most of them are shit.” Is that a fair point?

      Meanwhile notadie thinks not much can be done anyway as it’s a “listed building”, whilst Club Fandango want you all to know about their 10th birthday party featuring Art Brut. Doesn’t sound too shoddy…

      • notadie

        @notadie also wants you to know about the Art Brut gigs cos she’s in one of the support bands. YESSSSSSS.

  • fiona

    1. I’ll be there too.
    2. For God’s sake Mr KT, have you got a tapeworm or something? It’s a rock’n’roll pub! these are not for eating in, they are for drinking in (and no, ale doesn’t count) and listening to music and then thanking God there is an excellent kebab shop just a few feet away (reached only after ritually tripping up the steps into the fish and chip shop first by mistake and asking for a small lamb doner). Rock and roll. Not food. Ok?
    (BTW when I was in the B&G on Monday night, it didn’t have the whiff/ambience of hotel foyer, it was the proper, actual smell of rock’n’roll toilet and I had to leave. But that’s only happened once).
    3. you’re one of those people who talk all the way through a band, aren’t you? me too. It can be made more sociable by leaving the door open. This is also a low-cost intervention. But then again….one of the most brilliant moments of this year was walking into the back room to see what was happening and being confronted by a man striding around the room in pyjamas, another in a butcher’s apron and a pig mask, and someone else in a too-small boiler suit and a clown’s wig, playing the most genius, threatening music to a room full of nervous-looking people with their mouths open. I was too scared to leave the room in case they saw me and murdered me on the way out, so in this way I was forced to see my best gig of the year. Utterly brilliant, and it would never have happened if the door had been open. But then again, again, they were supporting a doors-open kind of band so it’s hard to say. Er.
    4. That’s a really good idea. As long as there’s NO FOOD. Or ALE. Even the best cinematic moments are appreciated more with a rumbling tummy.
    5. Sorry for rambling, terrible headache and codeine.
    6. Can’t stop thinking about warm scotch eggs now, damn you. Save the Bull and Gate!
    Oh and the band were called Clowns, from Brighton.

  • Chris

    The fact that there is not a bar in the venue hall itself is a godsend – it means that you can actually listen to the bands play rather than the inane conversations of those people who are there just to see the headline act.

    If you want a drink and a chat, do it in the bar. If you want to LISTEN to the music, take your drink into the room and be quiet!

    With regards to doing food – no need. The H&S issues would be immense to fit out the pub with a kitchen and it is not that sort of place. However, maybe look at working something in with many of the takeaways/small eateries around the place that would then deliver to the pub.