Squatters want to turn Gordon Ramsay gastropub into community cafe welcoming ‘victims of gentrification’

Squatters who took over a Gordon Ramsay pub in London have announced that they plan to turn the Grade II-listed building into a cafe and art gallery welcoming “the victims of gentrification”.

The celebrity chef had long run his York & Albany gastropub at former nineteenth-century coaching inn near Regent’s Park, but following legal battles between Ramsay and the site’s freeholder, film director Gary Love, the property was reported in December to have been put on the market with a guide price of £13m.

But this week, a group of at least six squatters commandeered the premises, locking themselves inside, boarding up the windows and putting up a “legal warning” defending their takeover, the Sun reported.

Squatters have big plans for the Grade II-listed York & Albany hotel and gastropub (PA)
Squatters have big plans for the Grade II-listed York & Albany hotel and gastropub (PA)

A notice taped to a door said the group had a right to occupy the venue, which they said was not a “residential building” and was therefore not subject to 2012 legislation which had created a new offence of squatting in a home.

Mr Ramsay was reported to have called the police on Wednesday but was unable to have the squatters removed, with the Metropolitan Police saying in a statement: “This is a civil matter and so police did not attend the property.”

In a further twist on Sunday, the squatters revealed their intentions of turning the space into a community cafe and art gallery

In a statement, they said: “We are occupying the York and Albany Hotel in Camden as the collective Camden Art Cafe. We aim to open our doors regularly to anyone and everyone, particularly the people of Camden who have been victims of gentrification and parasitic projects like HS2.

“We provide free food, drinks, and a space to display their art without the ridiculous red-tape galleries that require people to jump over. We believe all of us and our art deserves dignity.

“Camden is a borough with one of the biggest wealth disparities in London, so it seems only fitting that £13m properties that most locals would never be able to afford to visit should be opened up to all.

“The York and Albany is an iconic building in Camden since its opening in the 1820s; it has withstood wars and bombs, and despite what the media says, it will withstand the potentially short but hopefully long stay we squatters have here.

“At a time when Camden market has been bought out by a billionaire and many longstanding local businesses are being evicted from their units, it’s even more important that we all band together in all the forms of resistance that we know and can.”

They also extended their “solidarity to the Palestinian people and the longstanding residents of Drummond Street and the surrounding estates who have had their whole lives upturned by HS2”.

The occupation of a person’s non-residential property without their permission is not itself a crime in the UK, athough police can take action if crimes are subsequently committed, including damaging the property or stealing from it.

Mr Love purchased the property in 2007 and subsequently leased it to Mr Ramsay on a 25-year term with an annual rent of £640,000.

The Kitchen Nightmares host unsuccessfully attempted to free himself from the lease in a legal battle at the High Court in 2015. The venue went on sale at the end of last year.

The new takeover appears to be linked to the group Autonomous Winter Shelter, which notably previously occupied a former convent in east London, helping to house dozens of homeless people there before being evicted by police last year.