Battersea Mess and Music Hall
Battersea Mess and Music Hall: no longer Lavender Gardens’ local

The closure of Battersea Mess and Music was one of the sadder business closures I’ve seen in recent times. Businesses come and go, but there’s something about a pub that creates a little more attachment: perhaps because they so often are the location of happy memories. I’m not alone in that sadness either, with plenty of people asking me if I know anything about the closure, and perhaps more importantly, the future of the building.

I briefly considered what options the council might have in protecting the premises. Coincidentally I was in a meeting the day after it closed with Brandon Lewis in which he discussed the options local authorities have in protecting pubs, either making the pub and ‘asset of community value’ or an ‘article 4 direction’ although I’m not sure either would achieve the desired results in this case—it was already too late to make the premises an asset of community value, since they had already been sold, while an article 4 direction adds another planning hurdle, but offers no protection against, say, a return of a problematic Walkabout style venue on the road.

In any case, while I know little about the plans for the premises, what little I do know gives me some confidence the Mess will reincarnate in some form.

The premises have apparently been purchased by InnBrighton Ltd, who having a growing portfolio of London pubs including Battersea High Street’s Candlemaker, and looking at their pubs elsewhere, it looks like they have a similar style to that exhibited by Antic at the Mess. A blurb in Hospitality and Catering News covering the opening of The Candlemaker suggests:

InnBrighton believes that the successful 21st century pub is a real life social networking space that is original, inspirational, comfortable and memorable, and is proud of the cultural and ecological ethos that underpins all its commercial objectives.[1]

The question is what happens next. I understand they plan a major refurbishment, but do not know the details, nor their intentions for the various spaces in the pubs (although elsewhere they do have performance spaces). Although I’ve contacted them[2], I’ve had no response, although that might be simply because they’ve not fully worked up their plans.

However, the bottom line seems to be that a good, local pub will return to Lavender Gardens. The next challenge is making sure they don’t pretend they are in Clapham, but embrace being in Battersea.

  1. As someone who started drinking at, um, eighteen in the 20th century I thought a successful pub was about good beer, and the social networking naturally followed, more evidence that I’m well past my prime.  ↩
  2. And some two weeks after my attempts to contact them I’ve still not had a response, so assume none will be forthcoming.  ↩

And as I’m in something of a licensing groove, or rut, I may as well update on the decision of the Battersea Mess licensing review, which has been published today.

In short: do nothing.

The resident who requested the review had moved and decided not to attend the hearing. After listening to the evidence of the Mess, the sub-committee decided no further action was needed and the licence was unaltered.

I’m not surprised, as I commented when highlighting the review “it is well managed and a welcome addition to the evening and cultural offer of Lavender Hill.” I’m pleased the process can recognise well-run pubs as well as tackling those with problems. Although it seems a shame that the legal framework requires a night of everyone’s time, as well as the preparation involved, to do that.

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A licensing review for Battersea Mess, on Lavender Gardens, has been requested by a local resident on the grounds the existing conditions have not upheld the prevention of public nuisance licensing objective. I understand they seek a restriction of hours and additional conditions.

As a (semi) regular of the Mess I can’t be objective about the review, especially since my experience of the bar is that it is well managed and a welcome addition to the evening and cultural offer of Lavender Hill.

Having said that, the premises have long been largely empty (for example in the out of date Google Street View image). With the, mercifully brief, exception of Walkabout I probably wouldn’t be exaggerating much to suggest it never had more than a dozen customers in at any one time. The difference between a little used pub and a successful pub, restaurant and venue is going to be fairly significant. Though I’m not sure licensing should be used to inhibit success.

If you want to make a representation you have until 8 May.

The council’s licensing pages provide more information.

If you wish to make an observation you can do so by writing to:
Head of Licensing
Licensing Section
London Borough of Wandsworth
PO Box 47095
SW18 9AQ

or by emailing