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Four Miffed Residents Could Close One of London’s Greatest Neighbourhood Pubs

The Compton Arms in Islington is facing a license review that could define its future

A wood-panelled pub interior, with the bar to the right in the background and tables and stools in front.
Inside the Compton Arms in Islington.
The Compton Arms

A pub with deep roots in Islington is under threat of possible closure, because of the views of four local residents. The Compton Arms, which is variously an N1 local; an Arsenal fan’s matchday haven; and a destination for exciting culinary residencies, is having its license reviewed by Islington Council. If the review significantly alters the pub’s ability to operate, then “this famous, historic Pub will no longer be financially viable for us, or any other responsible Operator,” according to landlord Nick Stephens.

The pub announced details of the review on Instagram, describing the pressure from the four complainants as “infuriating and frustrating.” Stephens says that “Our managers, Esther & Nikki have gone to extreme lengths for these guys, under duress, and worked their socks off to run the pub considerately (and exceptionally) - in spite of some more than challenging behaviour.”

The extent of the complaints has already forced the pub to temporarily retire its television screens, ordinarily used to show football matches, especially Arsenal ones — and thus attract fans and revenue on matchdays. Stephens is yet to respond to a request for comment on the exact nature of the complaints, but wrote on Instagram that they covered being “a public nuisance ... a danger to health ... poorly run ... [and] That I am a licensee with no interest in communicating.”

The building has been a pub for over 200 years, and is famously cited as one to which George Orwell referred when dreaming up his own idealised local, The Moon Under Water. The residents’ complaints are, therefore, subject to having chosen to live next to a pub knowing it was a pub, leading to stringent accusations of NIMBYism in comments on the pub’s post and elsewhere online. The current kitchen residency is Belly, run by Reece Moore and James Thorneycroft; it follows the success of Ed McIlroy and Jamie Allan’s Four Legs, which went on to open a pub of its own, The Plimsoll, in Finsbury Park.

The deadline to submit representations regarding the review is today, Tuesday 23 August, and a license hearing will follow. Even if permanent closure occasioned by withdrawal of the license is extremely unlikely, any stringent changes to trading hours or other parameters could prevent the Compton Arms from, as Stephens says, remaining financially viable.

More soon.