Do we really have to lose Pizza on the Park?



UPDATE 21/4/10. There is now a Facebook Group protesting against the closure

The story is out. Pizza on the Park is likely to close as a music venue on June 24th. The landlord at 11/13 Knightsbridge, SW1, has given the restaurant operators of the ground floor and basement their notice to quit. And with it will, probably, disappear that rare thing, a jazz and cabaret venue in an absolute prime London location.

It's a room with a history. Popular with performers. Barbara Cook anyone? Or John Dankworth's post-knighthood party with NYJO? I bet LondonJazz readers have their memories. Tell me.

So what's happening? Westminster had its planning meeting to approve the redevelopment and to permit change of use into a boutique hotel way back in April 2007, but the owners of the building have only recently stirred themselves to start the development.

A nice irony here is that the Landlord's company which sought the change of use application is registered as an offshore corporation called....... Rhimesong.

I've read the lengthy detailed resolution which went before the planning committee. And I would find one thing about it quite funny if wasn't so serious. In 28 pages the music venue doesn't get a single mention. Refuse collection, yes. Types of wood in window frames, yes. London Underground still having access to the Piccadilly Line tube platforms underneath - it's an absorbing read.

But all you get about the ground floor and basement is the mention that there is a restaurant. And that any value it might have as a local amenity - with the planned hotel there will be a substantial reduction in the number of covers in the restaurant - was not a sufficient reason to intervene.

As for the music room, nada.

The author of the report, the Acting Director of City Planning and Development for Westminster Council, and therefore the councillors who decided on the basis of his or her paper, quite simply never even knew that you audience and you musicians had been there.

For the studious among you, here's the Planning Resolution from 2007. It seems hard to believe this venue is going to disappear quite so silently when it's been such a special place for such a lot of people. What do you think?

6 comments:

  1. Absolutely outrageous! Typical Planning Dept rolling over and effectively sanctioning the loss of one of the most important amenities in London - one of THE prime jazz venues in town .

    How much of a public consultation was there?

    Geoff

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  2. What a real shame! I was there last night to go and soak up some of the atmosphere ahead of my own gig there on the 6th of April. If it goes . . so does a lot of music history . . .

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  3. I attended some superb performances there. Claire Martin with Richard Rodney Bennett. Andrea Marcovicci. Steve Ross. I'll miss the place

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  4. I have performed there, and it's a gorgeous room to play - but I have to say it never seems to have quite decided what its audience is, possibly relying more on tourists and random visitors (due to its location), rather than building itself up as a famous London venue. Whenever I would tell my (non-musician, but music-appreciating, generally thirtysomething) friends about gigs there, they could never place it; it just wasn't on their radar. A real shame that such a lovely venue is closing. :-(

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  5. Cindi Jackson - This is very bad news, is there
    any way for this to stop, I have perfomed at
    Pizza On The Park several times, and this
    is one of the BEST jazz venues in London.

    It's a place of class and all of my friends
    love to go there for a change as the live music
    scene is dying out.

    I will be very upset to see it close. :-(

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  6. What sad news!! Hopefully it isn't writ in stone!! I'm grateful to have another chance to sing there, June 8 - June 13, 2010, and perhaps the glories of Cole Porter will help the Planning Department see the folly of their plan...? It's always a rare treat to be able to sing in London - and Pizza On the Park has so
    much going for it. Maybe if something radical were tried, it's own new and special name, for example, its identity could be more profitably established. London, of ALL places, deserves an
    excellent cabaret/supper club along the lines of The Oak Room at The Algonquin or The Cafe Carlyle or Feinstein's, in New York.. With fingers crossed, I look forward to being there in June and bringing "Akers Sings Porter ~ Anything Goes!" to London's own "Pizza on the Park".

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