The Cross Keys in Chelsea, whose previous patrons include Agatha Christie, Dylan Thomas and Bob Marley, has been empty since it was closed by owner Andrew Bourne earlier this year.
Mr Bourne said the pub was not making a profit and wanted to turn it into a £10 million residence complete with basement swimming pool, but was turned down by planners.But never fear, there’s always someone willing to take it off your hands! And I do mean ‘take’. As in ‘steal’…
He is now taking legal action to evict the 17 squatters, who moved in two weeks ago and have pledged to open to the community for events, an art gallery, community library and for Sunday lunches./facepalm
In a note attached to the outside of the building, which has been boarded up since the summer, the squatters wrote: “Hello neighbours, we are your friendly local squatters. “I can assure you that we are quiet and respectful and we would love to seamlessly become a part of your community. We are keeping your pub safe and tidy until it is going to be used again.”You mean you’re stealing someone else’s property and expect to be treated like Robin Hood because you’re ‘giving back to the community’?
Does that mean it’s OK for me to burgle next door’s fridge as long as I use it to put on a street party? So nice to know…
The squatters, who are aged between 17 and 36 and moved from a previous squat in Holborn, are not subject to new laws criminalising squatting because they are in a commercial building.That was a mistake, then, wasn’t it? Why was it drawn up that way? And just who are these cheeky little scamps?
Mariana Costa, 21, a Portuguese theatre student, said: “It is boarded up and empty so we can squat here. We have welcomed many members of the community in and everyone seems quite happy about us being here.”Really? I’d rather you were back in Portugal.
Or do they deal with thieves less leniently over there? Is that why you’re here in the first place?
Mr Bourne, a property developer, said it was “outrageous” that the squatters could move into the pub, which opened in 1708. He has applied for an eviction order and will go before West London County Court on November 5.
He said: “The notice they have put on the door is rubbish and the police have been called out by neighbours some three times already. It has brought crime to the area.
“They are professional squatters who know exactly what they are doing. They will be gone in a week or so, I think they will probably walk out after November 5.”I suspect he’s right. These people tend to know just how far they can push things.
The locals who agree to give interviews to the ‘Standard’, however, swear they have no problems with theft, as long as it isn't happening to them:
Residents in Lawrence Street said there had been little disturbance from the squatters at the Cross Keys. Matthew Millett, 30, a property consultant, said: “I would prefer it if they weren't there but they haven’t caused me any nuisance or made me feel unsafe.
“I haven’t seen them but I have seen people talking about them, people are looking a bit upset about it. They seemed to be in there quite quickly once the ruling went against Andrew Bourne.
“The pub is an institution, it is Chelsea’s oldest pub. Too many local pubs have shut, because of its location it is a much-loved pub.”But clearly not loved enough, or it wouldn't have closed.
Ben Kerrigan, 24, a landscape gardener and electrician, said: “They are quite quiet, we don’t ever see anything of them. Most people in this area want the pub to stay, if it closes there is going to be more crime.”Really? How come? Are you planning on going out mugging, Ben, now you can't have a pint in the Cross Keys instead?
In an email, the squatters told the Standard: “The people dearly miss having the Cross Keys as a community foundation and we know we can adequately maintain that base for the people.
“After so much effort trying to save this pub, it is our main concern to make this dream come true. The community would be helping us by allowing us to have the Cross Keys and we would help them.”‘The community’ doesn't own the Cross Keys – Mr Bourne does.
They can’t give it to you. And he doesn't want to.