I have lost count of the number of people who have asked me why I have made no comment on the ongoing and frankly messy demise of Greenwich Inc and this morning I got yet another request to discuss it, so hey, here we go.
The reason I’ve not mentioned it is not sinister, I promise. Basically I heard rumours a long while ago, but couldn’t talk about it for legal reasons until it became official. Then Rob over at greenwich.co.uk started a thread and I don’t like to tread on toes if there’s a good old ding-dong going on elsewhere as it tends to water down discussion. You can read that discussion here.
Greenwich Visitor (the only local paper actually worth bothering with these days, IMHO) also covered it well and I’m not particularly into reinventing the wheel, however splendid a wheel it might be.
But hey – I’ve been asked once too often now, so yes – let’s look at it.
For anyone who’s been living under a rock for the past few months, Greenwich Inc. has gone into administration, Frank Dowling, its main man, is being investigated for fraud and it’s all looking rather grim.
Sounds to me like the classic expansion too far, and however serious the schadenfreude might be, for many Greenwich people the main questions will linger around what this means for the town.
Few people liked what Greenwich Inc. did to – well, Greenwich. Interesting, cute restaurants turned into bloated monsters, historic interiors ripped out and replaced with plush fakes, quirky menus switched for generic pap.
It was often quite a downer visiting the places too – I remember asking a waiter about the tips and him saying ‘I don’t care how you pay it – I don’t see it whatever form it comes in.’ After that I always slipped them cash.
Of course Greenwich Inc wasn’t just in the town centre – it expanded to the O2, the Isle of Dogs and ever the City. For me, I care little about what happened elsewhere, even over at the O2 – it was a new venue and he could do what he liked with it, though that Indian restaurant that was there when it first opened was marvellous, and his takeover of that was a real pity.
But what we’re left with in the town itself is a worry:
The Trafalgar Tavern – in a dreadful state and under threat of a godawful hotel thrown up next to it. There’s buddlia growing out of the roof, cracks in the stucco small creatures could set up mansion in and a general air of melancholy. I’m told this is still controlled under a different management, but it’s one of Greenwich’s brightest jewels and it’s not glittering as it might. Having said that, it’s not all bad – that ghastly statue of Nelson has disappeared, some say mysteriously. I was sent some photos of it being loaded onto a van…
The Bar du Musee – a delightful, quirky French restaurant by an antiques shop, expanded and bloated until it became a ghastly monster with zero character and dreadful food. Still not sure how that kind of over-expansion was allowed, but it was sort of hollowed out over the years, like the chalk mines under the heath. Jamie Oliver has it now and it’s okay for a chain, but I’d have the old Bar du Musee back any day.
The Spread Eagle – oh, the Spread Eagle – a charming old coaching inn, next to a couple of funky little Dick Moy junk emporia. Again, ripped out, hollowed out and blandified – how was this even allowed? But at least it had one hell of an art collection, bought by Dowling from Dick Moy, as I understand. Now, it’s part of that fraud investigation as The Greenwich Visitor will tell you at length, all of that art has disappeared. It was a wonderful collection, and I know it was private – but I’d love to see it saved for the people of Greenwich – if they can find it, of course.
The Cricketers – a nice old codgers’ pub on the south east of the Market. First the appalling Powder Monkey – a taste-free, purpose-built ‘gay bar’ created as some kind of ‘replacement’ for the Gloucester Arms. The local gay population took one look at the hideous urinals and voted with their feet. Then it was the least exotic Tiki bar you’ll ever come across, followed by the dreary W Lounge, then the smelliest fish and chip shop in town. It’s now Goddards Pies. Don’t get me started on why Goddards should never have moved from their original place (where Gourmet Burger Kitchen is now) but I guess it’s the best of the bunch.
The Admiral Hardy – a pub turned into student bar. I don’t know much about it as it wasn’t one I knew well enough to comment on. I believe it’s still owned by an independent company.
The Clarence Music Hall – This was a music hall above the entrance to the market. To be honest, I have no idea what this was like before Greenwich Inc moved in, but I do remember the ‘erotic’ wallpaper and being laughed at when I got the proverbial fly in my (v. expensive) cocktail. I never returned. Wouldn’t it be a cool replacement for Greenwich Playhouse? Of course that will never happen…
The Gloucester Arms – a nice, quiet gay pub, replaced with a generic modern bar in many forms, most recently the Greenwich Tavern. I don’t hate it, there’s nothing specific to hate – but it is all part of the blandification of Greenwich.
The Coach and Horses – the pub in the south west corner of the market, completing Greenwich Inc’s total ownership of all four corners. I heard terrible stories of how it went downhill ‘backstage’ getting, I am told, into a terrible condition. I don’t know if it still is.
I don’t know what will happen with Frank Dowling and Greenwich Inc, but I am concerned about the state the debacle has left Greenwich in. These buildings, without exception, are historic, and need attention from, ideally, lots of different people so that this wholesale degradation cannot happen again should an ‘empire’ go bust.
Wanted: Quirky, passionate individuals (with bottomless pockets and/or energy) to create something cool out of Greenwich Inc’s ashes…
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