A company accused of managing the decline of a Grade II listed pub in Grove Park has said it could close all together because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The Baring Hall Hotel closed during lockdown and has yet to reopen.  

The near 140-year-old building has escaped demolition and development over the years thanks to local campaigners, but they say owner Antic is intentionally allowing the pub to fall into disrepair with a view to converting it into housing.  

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Opened in 1882, Baring Hall Hotel was among a small group of public houses that were built along “improved lines” in the 1880s and 1890s, and are credited with influencing the design of pubs as we know them today in the UK.   

After the pub closed in 2009 and was damaged by a fire, the owner submitted plans to demolish it and build flats. 

Despite the plans being rejected by a planning committee, without their knowledge planning officers had already given permission for the building to be demolished. 

But campaigner Stephen Kenny, along with Councillor Liam Curran and others, created the Baring Trust with the hope of saving the pub and getting it listed.  

They successfully had the council’s decision overturned in the High Court in 2011 and it was first in the borough to be listed as an asset of community value in January 2013.  

Antic, which runs about 50 pubs across London, bought the building in 2013 and reopened it, but later applied to build flats in the carpark behind it, though this was rejected.  

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In 2018 the pub’s ACV status, including the surrounding land, was renewed, and Historic England Grade II listed the pub and associated stables after Mr Kenny made the case that pubs across the country were based on its “improved pub” model.  

But people are still concerned about the “managed decline” of the pub. 

Cllr Curran, chair of the council’s sustainable development select committee, said the owners have “ripped all the original flooring out”.  

“They’ve trashed the building […] they have no intention of running it as a pub. All the fire damage is still there.   

“It’s a Grade II listed building, it’s one of the most significant pubs in the UK, and it should be a vital, busy, successful pub in the heart of the community.  

“It’s the only pub in Grove Park and it’s opposite the second busiest station in Lewisham,” he said.  

Antic denies the allegations. 

Owner Anthony Thomas said they have “clearly demonstrated intent to see a flourishing pub”. 

“One that we have operated for some six years at a trading loss, and given the scale of the investment originally required, we were always very clear that the redevelopment of the car park would not only unlock the necessary funds to complete the job, but enhance the reasons to visit.  

“A third of our pubs unfortunately remain closed following the lockdown in March, and with the restrictions on our trade environment becoming ever more onerous, I fear that we will soon need to start closing those that we have worked hard to keep open.   

“There is no managed decline here, but we can hear the very real death knell for our industry and survival will be the focus for us all in the difficult winter ahead,” he said.   

Mr Kenny said “when a property developer is behind ownership of pubs” there is “never an intention to run a pub successfully”. 

“There are many examples to prove this – the Ravensbourne Arms being a case in point.  

“Their first and foremost aim and effort is in redeveloping the site and selling on.  

“Developing the car park would be detrimental to the setting of this Grade II listed building and outdoor spaces in pubs are needed more than ever,” he said. 

He added that two years ago the pub was put up for sale and the community’s offer, “which aligned with the Red Book evaluation of the site”, as well as higher offers from pub landlords, were refused.

“If they genuinely want to see a ‘flourishing pub’ here, then there is no reason why the owners can’t work together with the community on a Heritage Lottery bid to restore it, just like what happened with the Fellowship Arms.  

“Or sell it to someone who actually wants to run a pub and not a development site,” he said.