I’m a bit surprised this hasn’t had more attention – Inc Group boss Frank Dowling, whose company has a strangehold on eating and drinking in Greenwich Market, has publicly backed controversial plans to build a boutique hotel in the market.
I guess it’s a bit “dog bites man”, but considering Frank rarely speaks on the record, this does at least confirm plenty of long-held suspicions.
He made the comments in an interview with the Greenwich Podcast. He told presenter Nick Baker:
“I’m very much in favour of it. Greenwich Hospital are good poeple – as a landlord, sometimes decisions aren’t easy. In the market redevelopment, that’s a corrigated plastic roof. That’s conduct unbecoming of a world heritage site. Greenwich needs 2,000 hotel rooms – the Ibis is horrible, the Novotel not much better.
“This is a Unesco world heritage site – we’re in a different type of status, and you don’t have any overnight accomodation in Greenwich. You don’t. There’s no way that Greenwich will ever became a Cambridge, an Oxford, a York, a Bath – a good market town without some good places where people can stay. You can’t see Greenwich in one day – there is a better experience if you can stay overnight in Greenwich.”
“We need to keep on moving. This anti-progressive bloc that’s… – there’s a small amount of people with a big voice. You do get a local bloc, especially west Greenwich, and you have 20 or 30 people who have the voice of thousands. And that’s dangerous.”
He also revealed plans to turn Inc’s offices on Nelson Road into a 20-room boutique hotel in time for the Olympics, and reaffirmed his ambition to build a 150-room hotel on the site of the Trident Hall in Park Row, next to the Trafalgar Tavern.
It’s interesting listening, and if you ever spend some time in Greenwich or fret about the future of the place it’s a must-listen. For my money, I think part of what winds people up about Inc Group is its lack of respect for what came before it – it’s all very well banging on about a “world heritage site”, but if you’re going to convert a much-loved old pub into a fish and chip shop via spells as a gay bar and tiki bar, then there’s no point in complaining about an “anti-progressive bloc”.
Some of Inc’s woes are inherited – the reputation for poor service comes from the Trafalgar Tavern’s previous management, for example.
But you can fix what’s been broken – when the management of Greenwich’s leading gay pub the Gloucester decided to turn it into a mainstream pub, it killed the place stone dead. When Inc took it on, it became the Greenwich Park Bar and Grill. It’s just had another name change… maybe it’s now time to revive the Gloucester, now the gay crowd has moved to the Rose & Crown and a generation has moved on?
Nah, it’s now the Greenwich Tavern. Just in case anyone had stepped out of Greenwich Park and believed they had arrived in Bromley. (About as clever as renaming a pub The Prince of Greenwich.) Now, do you see why people worry about the likes of Inc Group turning Greenwich into a crappy tourist trap?