One of London’s most iconic greasy spoons — Arthur’s Cafe on Kingsland Road — will permanently close on 25 May, per the wishes of the late Arthur Woodham, its proprietor who died in January.
Speaking to the Hackney Gazette, Jamie Woodham, Arthur’s grandson who worked alongside his grandfather for 30 years (from the age of 12) and who has been running the business since the start of the year, said he was shocked to learn that Arthur’s will stipulated that the business must be sold after he died. Woodham, who turned 91 on Christmas Day last year, had originally opened the business after the Second World War, in 1948.
“It just said on his passing the shop must be sold,” Jamie told the Hackney Gazette. “I was hoping it would be my future. It’s been my life and I’ve worked with him for 30 years. It’s a shame for me and a shame for the customers.”
He said there was nothing he or the family could do about it: “It’s so legal. It’s tied up, and there is no way of getting around it.” Arthur’s wife Eileen, who is 88, also lives above the shop and may have to move out.
Jamie insisted he did not know the reasons for his grandfather’s decision, but said: “I’ve got a lot of thoughts but they are thoughts I need to keep to myself. Maybe he thought it was too much of a burden. It does take over your life. It was my life.”
However, he said he hopes to open another café in Hackney because they have a significant number of locals and a community to serve.
“We’ve got customers from so many different generations who come in here, who I’ve grown up with, and we serve their children now,” he said. “They are devastated – the lot of them. It’s a tight little community.”