How significant, in retrospect, the relaunch of the Bull & Gate was back in 2015 for the area. And, as longterm residents will remember, prior to its reinvention as gastropub, it had several historic decades under its belt as one of north London’s most famous gig venues.
But, lest we forget, in between, the landmark pub had been closed for a few years while owners Young’s battled understandable local fears that the Victorian interior would be changed beyond all recognition.
Any such concern swiftly vanished after an initial glimpse at its restored Victorian grandeur. (We’re sure as hell glad the building didn’t end up as luxury flats, like so many other boozers in Kentish Town and Camden.)
In the last five years, the airy rear dining room has been an atmospheric setting for a weekday lunch or lazy Sunday roast, while the upstairs cocktail haunt, the Boulogne Bar, makes a fun spot for an espresso martini or negroni. And the pub itself is super cosy with nooks and crannies to nestle in.
The only thing missing – and, in fact, oft remarked upon round these parts? Why, a rear garden, or roof terrace for that all-important outside space; pavement tables and chairs just don’t quite cut it on that busy Kentish Town Road junction.
Fast forward half a decade and now Young’s sees its plans for a new roof terrace as key to the Bull & Gate’s future in this brave new not-quite-post-Covid world.
You may remember that earlier this year they held a public exhibition to share draft ideas with the local community.
The plans outlined the flat roof space above the entrance to the Grade-II listed building transformed into an outside restaurant area for up to 50 customers.
“We see the roof terrace as central to our future,” says Joe Stileman, general manager. “We submitted our plans to the Council before lockdown, as the pub was already losing out on trade to other pubs in the area with outdoor spaces.
“With coronavirus, we’ve seen a London-wide demand for more outdoor dining experiences. The terrace, if permitted, will secure the pub’s future for years to come.”
As the owner of some of the most historically interesting pubs in the capital, with challenging internal layouts, Young’s was slower to open their doors after the government lifted its lockdown restrictions, but is hopeful that trade will increase as the virus comes under control.
“We’ve increased the frequency of our cleaning,” says Stileman, “provided hand sanitisers across the bar and tables, started taking orders for food and drinks via an app, and limited the number of customers allowed in to ensure social distancing.”
And finally, it’s worth adding that the current plans also have support from community groups including the Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum.
“This is obviously a very difficult time for the whole industry,” says Stileman. “We want to assure our community in Kentish Town that the Bull and Gate is open for business in a sensible and Covid-secure way.”
Quite simply then, a roof terrace aids social distancing – as well as adding an extra attraction to an already destination pub.