Wetherspoons is selling the Asparagus Pub in Falcon Road as part of 32 of its pubs across England to be put on the market.
JD Wetherspoon operates around 800 pubs across England and Ireland and has announced to they are selling 32 of them. London is the most affected city with popular and famous locations such as Islington (Angel) and Holborn (Penderel’s Oak) in addition to the Asparagus in Battersea and 6 others.
A JD Wetherspoon spokesperson said that the decision was purely “commercial” and made as wages for staff and cost of repairs are rising. Last July they warned that they could face a loss of about £30m this year with data suggesting sales down by 8% annually (and with the economic crisis increasing, it is likely to worsen).
It is considered that difficulties to recruit and retain staff amid widespread labour shortages, the inflation and the after-effects of the Covid crisis have also contributed to the decision.
The chain is owned by founder and chairman Tim Martin, an arch-Brexiter. He was a strong advocate of the benefits of voting Leave during the run-up of the 2016 referendum. However, in June 2021 he urge the government to relax EU work visa rules to attract lower-skilled EU workers, amid difficulties of recruiting staff in the UK hospitality industry.
Tim Martin said:
“There have been many unintended consequences. Large numbers of people, as has been widely reported, have left the workforce, mainly through early retirement. Many people now work from home, rather than from offices, which has had a significant impact on transport and hospitality businesses, among other examples.”
The Asparagus as a local asset
In January 2021 we wrote about the opening of a new London and Southwestern Wetherspoon pub at Clapham Junction station and noted that it was the second Wetherspoon establishment in the area, with the other one being the Asparagus on the other end of Falcon Road.
Although the customers are very different on both end of the long road, the Asparagus attracting people from the York Road new developments as well as from Battersea High street with its food market, some locals predicted that one of the two pubs might have to give up. And with the £860,000 refurbishment spent by JD Wetherspoon less than a year ago in the Clapham Junction site, it was likely to be the other one.
The Asparagus opened on Falcon Road in 1998. It comprises the ground, first floor used for toilets and a large patio garden along Falcon Road, with a basement used as a cellar.
The pub was named after the crop Battersea was famous for producing during the 18th and 19th centuries (along with cabbage, beans, melons and of course lavender) thanks to a well-drained soil and natural springs on this part of the Thames estuary. Asparagus became the parish’s proverbial crop, sold in what were popularly known as “Battersea Bundles”.
The pub was put on the market by commercial property specialists CBRE and estate agents Savills. The property benefits from a premises licence permitting the sale of alcohol until 00:00 Sunday to Thursday and 01:00 Friday and Saturday. The estimated renting value for the year is £77,000 (2017 Rateable Value). The online advert says that it’s an “extensive well presented trading area” which offers “significant re-development potential“.
Local users sadden by the closure
On social media, users have expressed disappointment and sadness. On Twitter, Henry, head brewer at Dark Star Brewery, said “The Asparagus in Battersea is a classic of the genre!“. Stephen Beech commented: “Saddened to read that The Asparagus in Battersea will be leaving the Spoons fold…“. Maher tweeted: “RIP to the Asparagus, one of my best pubs in Battersea“.
The Asparagus in Battersea is the most affordable boozer for miles around and contains the truest cross-section of Battersea society of any establishment in the area. Haven’t got any time for Clive’s dad but our Spoons is an important part of the community
— Alex Christian (@alexschristian) September 28, 2022
An online petition has been set up to save the asset.
Wetherspoon has announced that the pubs will continue to operate until the sale has been agreed, so its still time to enjoy a drink at the Asparagus if you want to support this local pub.