Youths taunt pub staff in sale row

By Marcus Dysch, December 4, 2008
Campaigners demonstrate with meaning outside the Swan

Campaigners demonstrate with meaning outside the Swan

Staff at a pub which is due to be turned into a synagogue say they have been harassed by Jewish youths shouting “burn in hell” and “it’s our pub now”.

The Swan, in the heart of London’s strictly Orthodox community in Stamford Hill, was bought by members of the Bobov community in September for around £1 million.

But their plan to turn it into a community centre and shul has been met with opposition from regulars.

Since the sale, staff say they have been intimidated by young members of the Charedi community banging on windows, making obscene gestures and goading regulars.

Hackney Police confirmed officers have responded to a number of emergency call-outs to the Clapton Common pub during the past three months, only to find they were hoaxes.

One worker, who did not want to be named, said: “Lots of police turned up one night because they had been told there were 12 guys fighting in here.

“That same night, three minicabs turned up at closing time. But we only had two old guys in. The drivers didn’t know who had called them out.

“A couple of times, young Jewish guys, aged about 16, made rude hand gestures at us. It’s all very distressing. I was on my own in the pub and they were walking past, banging the windows and shouting ‘save the Swan’, mocking us.

“We don’t believe they are linked to the buyers, but how the customers have kept their calm I do not know. It’s like they are trying to get us to react, so they can say we are antisemitic.”

Sasha Johnson, spokesman for the Save the Swan campaign group said: “We are disgusted to hear about the intimidation against the pub’s staff. It has been very disturbing.”

At a meeting last month, Solomon Goldman, spokesman for the buyers, is said to have told the campaigners that, due to the level of opposition and potential difficulty in obtaining change-of-use planning permission for the site, the Bobovs may be willing to lease the building to the group, allowing it to remain open as a pub.

Mr Goldman said: “I am negotiating with the campaigners. Whatever they say, you can take as truth. From our side, there is no further comment.”

Inspector Martin Waugh, of Hackney Police, said: “Any allegations of disorder are fully investigated and we will continue to work closely with the local community to make the Springfield ward a safe place to live and visit.”

Last updated: 12:44pm, December 4 2008