Last orders? Pubs’ fears over trade as Hammers move on

Tom Friel, landlord of the Black Lion in Plaistow. Landlords across the area are concerned about the

Tom Friel, landlord of the Black Lion in Plaistow. Landlords across the area are concerned about the impact of West Ham's move next summer - Credit: Archant

For more than 100 years Hammers fans have flocked to the Boleyn Ground and its nearby watering holes to watch the game and celebrate victories or nurse defeats.

Boss Robert Goodes third right with his locals

Boss Robert Goodes third right with his locals - Credit: Archant

But with West Ham United moving to Stratford next summer, pub owners fear that final orders could be called on their thriving trade.

“We are all very football dependent,” said Tom Friel, landlord and owner of the Black Lion in Plaistow Road.

“In the ’60s and ’70s all the players, including Harry Redknapp and Bobby Moore, used to come down after the match for a pint and something to eat.”

The 50-year-old, who has run the pub for nearly 30 years, said he had no intention of changing it, adding: “It’s very well-known so people will still come, but it will have an impact.”

Come the start of the 2016 season, Hammers will have moved from their 35,000 capacity Upton Park stadium to the former Olympic stadium in Stratford, where they hope to fill 20,000 additional seats.

Pub landlords agree it seems unlikely that match goers will make the five-mile journey back to Upton Park, even if there are more of them.

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“We’ll lose 50 or 60 per cent of the trade,” said Ron Borwell, 70, who owns match day magnets the Denmark Arms in Barking Road and The Queens in Green Street.

“On a Saturday game day it’s absolutely rammed. I’ll see how it goes – I might need to move out and put them up for sale. There’s no point running something that’s not making money.”

Robert Goodes, owner of The Lord Stanley pub in St Mary’s Road, has tried a proactive approach. But an application for a change of use of his pub, turning it into a hotel and bar, was refused by the council.

“Most of the trade at the Stanley is during the football season when West Ham are playing,” said Robert.

“The reason a bar was included in the plan was so that the regulars will still have somewhere to go for a night out and a drink. So many local pubs have disappeared in the last few years that before long there will be none left,” he added.

The landlord estimates his pub would lose at least 60 per cent of trade from West Ham’s move – amounting to takings of £150,000 during the season.

Trudy Wood, 52, shares their concerns and admits the future is uncertain for the Victoria Tavern, Plaistow High Street, which she has managed for seven years with husband Ron.

“We won’t get a turnover after West Ham moves,” she said. “We have a community pub here, but we don’t have enough people drinking here during the week.

“People around here aren’t going to come and drink here anymore. Pubs, shops, fish and chip shops – they’re all going to suffer. We won’t survive.

“It’s a massive concern but we’ve spoken up about it before and nobody’s listened to us.

She added: “The owner is planning to turn the pub into flats because of the move, so we’ll definitely go.”

Arguably set to lose the most of any pub in the area is The Boleyn Tavern. Iconic in its own right, it sits a stone’s throw from the hallowed turf of the Hammers’ traditional home.

But general manager Drew Cooke maintains a stubborn optimism.

Already the tavern has started a youth hostel upstairs, with between 60 and 70 guests there at any one time.

“We’ll give it our best shot,” says Mr Cooke. “Maybe with the local council’s help the area can adapt to the change and become what it needs to be.”

“Obviously [the move is] going to have a dramatic effect on the turnover.

“We are looking to do other things to try and regenerate that income. Hopefully the homes next door will bring new people to the area.

“The area doesn’t have much of a pub-going culture, so football has played a huge part in drawing in crowds.”

A spokeswoman for Newham Council was keen to cut through the doom-mongering and argued that hundreds of new homes set for the area will bring new custom to local business.

She said: “We have always been clear that West Ham’s move must not be at the expense of the existing community and businesses.

“The regeneration of the Upton Park area should encourage the area to thrive as a great place to live and do business.”