Protesters Dominic Loki, left, and Daniel Gardiner outside 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street
Published: 30 January, 2015
by CAROLINE MORTIMER
SQUATTERS will be forced out of the 12 Bar Club this weekend after a court granted a developer’s petition to evict them.
Consolidated Developments was granted an interim possession order at Central London County Court on Wednesday, which gave Bohemians 4 Soho, a group of squatters who occupied the club in Denmark Street last week, just two days to leave.
The group said they had occupied the premises in protest over the destruction of the arts in the area.
Speaking in court, one of the squatters, Pete Phoenix, said Denmark Street – known as Tin Pan Alley – was famous globally as the home of music.
He said visitors all over the world may come to see “the Queen and Buckingham Palace” but they also come to see the musical history of the area.
Mr Phoenix said they wanted to raise awareness of what was happening to the street and they felt the only way they could do this was with an occupation of the club.
He said it was a “political and cultural protest” and the court could not impose the order because it would violate their rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
He added the squatters had taken care of the building since they had taken it over and had allowed workmen in to do urgent repair works.
He said: “We are not saying this is a permanent protest, it is not going to go on for ever. We are willing to negotiate.”
Other squatters warned they would not leave the building voluntarily.
Daniel Gardiner said: “I have no problem being arrested for music. I am willing to go down with the building.”
Speaking to the West End Extra before the hearing, Mr Gardiner said: “Whoever controls the culture, controls the future.
“Corporate censorship is coming and it is worse than government censorship, we are taking a stand. There is a chance to use the forces of the arts against these people.”
He said 10 people were currently sleeping in the bar on a rota basis and many more had come to the community meeting held at the bar on Monday evening.
The 12 Bar Club, which has been in Denmark Street since 1994, was the subject of a high-profile campaign to save it after it announced it would close in January and move to a new site in Islington.
Nearly 27,000 people signed a petition called “Don’t Bin Tin Pan Alley” last year after the plans to redevelop the street first emerged.
The campaign, supported by The Who guitarist Pete Townshend and Engelbert Humperdinck, aimed to give the street the same conservation status as Hatton Garden and Savile Row.
In court, Consolidated Developments dismissed the claims that the order violated human rights legislation pointing out freedom of assembly does not give people the right to “assemble on other people’s property”.
Property consultant at Consolidated Developments Richard Metcalfe said: “26 Denmark Street is deemed a ‘building at risk’ by English Heritage and requires structural works to ensure its future – this is a legal obligation and it will reopen as a live venue when works are complete. This will be complemented by the opening of an additional 800-capacity venue, which will bring back a large-scale venue missing from the area since the closure of the Astoria.
“Furthermore, allegations that Denmark Street is being ‘demolished’ are entirely untrue. The plans include the refurbishment of listed buildings, addition of affordable housing and expanded retail opportunities.
“We have the support of the Denmark Street Traders Association and have worked in close liaison with them since the project’s inception.
“We have been embedded in Soho for over 25 years, our office is just next door to the site, and during our time here we have declined numerous offers from large corporates who wanted to take up space there.
“Change is inevitable as part of redevelopment but we, as much as anybody else, would like to see the fabric of the area retained – the key is to strike a balance.”