Simpson’s Tavern London: why capital’s oldest chophouse has closed - crowdfunder campaign to save it explained

The City of London institution has been sat just a stone’s throw away from the Bank of England since 1757

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London’s oldest chophouse Simpson’s Tavern has been plying its trade in the Square Mile since 1757. But the famous city dining institution has been forced to close. A crowdfunding campaign to save it is now underway.

It comes as the hospitality sector faces major pressure as a result of soaring food prices and rocketing energy bills caused by the war in Ukraine. Consumers are also cutting back on their spending as a result of the cost of living crisis, while labour shortages mean firms are having to fork out extra money in wages to attract staff.

According to trade body UKHospitality, more than a third of pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes are at risk of going under by early 2023. Between June and September, 2,230 sites closed, hospitality sector analysts CGA and AlixPartners revealed.

So, why did the Simpson’s Tavern London close - and what’s happening with the campaign to save it? Here’s what you need to know.

The Simpson’s Tavern sits on London’s Cornhill close to the Bank of England (image: AFP/Getty Images)The Simpson’s Tavern sits on London’s Cornhill close to the Bank of England (image: AFP/Getty Images)
The Simpson’s Tavern sits on London’s Cornhill close to the Bank of England (image: AFP/Getty Images)

What was Simpson’s Tavern London?

Simpson’s Tavern in London was founded in 1757 - a year in which King George II sat on the throne, the USA didn’t exist, and the poet William Blake was born.

Over the 265 years since then, the site at 38½ Cornhill - which was originally owned by the Simpson family - has served up traditional British food in a wood-panelled dining space that boasts historic tables from Lloyd’s of London.

The establishment would not look out of place in a Charles Dickens adaptation. Incidentally, Dickens himself is believed to have dined there during his lifetime. However, it was forced to close on Tuesday (1 November).

Why has Simpson’s Tavern closed?

The Covid-19 pandemic has continued to take a financial toll on the hospitality sector, and Simpson’s Tavern is but the latest casualty. While the owners of Simpson’s insist business has been booming since the last national lockdown was lifted, the firm has been in rent arrears from the various virus restrictions.

In a statement on its website, the business says these arrears have led its landlord (Tavor Holdings, which it says is incorporated in Bermuda) to seize its site - although it has cried foul at the way in which the property’s owner has conducted business.

“It is a fallacy to present that Simpsons is unable to go forward, a lie told by the agents to extort unfair rent and service charges for periods we, through no fault of our own, had to close during lockdown,” the statement read.

“Most Landlords have practically allowed for relief and a reasonable horizon for repayment. We too have presented what we believe to be fair to the landlord, fully expecting them to respond with either reasonable counter or acceptance.

“They have not responded except with a demand for the service charge [for when] the business was closed and then full repayment of all arrears. We had believed that we were in the middle of meaningful negotiations in good faith. We now believe this action shows that the landlord had been using this period of negotiation to deceive and run the clock out on the government arbitration process and then cynically seize the property.

“They have placed the freehold for sale and rather than sell with a settled successful tenant they see the value of the freehold improved with vacant possession.”

The hospitality business says it remains willing to engage with the landlords to resolve the situation. It adds that it has paid its rent for the current quarter, had bookings in its system, and had even ordered Christmas crackers ahead of the festive season - a crucial period for revenues.

It has explained that it cannot access stock that is now “spoiling in the fridges” because the landlord has changed the locks. The landlord has not publicly commented and there is no direct way of contacting them.

What is being done to rescue Simpson’s Tavern London?

The owners of the business have set up a crowdfunding campaign in a bid to re-open the historic chophouse. They say they need to raise £385,000 to have enough capital to move back into the address.

So far, more than 379 people have donated more than £17,200 to the cause. If you wish to take part, you can find the crowdfunder at this web address.

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