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London Gin Club’s future is threatened by Crossrail flooding

‘We’re at the end of our tether,’ says owner after basement damage

29 November, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Basement damage at London Gin Club, formerly the legendary Star Cafe, in Great Chapel Street

A CELEBRATED business, passed down through three generations, is facing a year’s closure because of flooding caused by the delayed Crossrail project.

The London Gin Club, formerly the legendary Star Cafe, in Great Chapel Street has been shut since April after damage to its Victorian basement caused by works at the Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station.

Repair work costing £200,000, not starting until January, is another example of misery piled on independent businesses by the Crossrail project.

The underground east to west London railway was supposed to be finished in December 2018.

Owner Julia Forte said: “I can’t tell you how absolutely at the end of our tether we are. We are at our wits’ end. We will be shut for one entire year.

“When it rains outside it rains inside. We thought we were just closing for a month but we haven’t reopened. It is not just a little bit of damp.”

Forte’s Star Cafe opened in 1933 after Julia’s grandfather Ambrose Forte arrived in England from southern Italy.

Ms Forte started running a bar from the cafe in the evenings in 2002 and, when Mr Forte passed away five years ago, the Star Cafe closed and began operating as the London Gin Club.

She said: “I get emails all the time saying ‘just coming by, are you open?’ I put something out on Facebook and Twitter as an update but there is nothing to say. Nothing has changed.

“They [Crossrail] have not helped us at all. We have been thriving and successful for 86 years and the cafe has never been closed this long. They have not done anything to progress the repairs, our insurance company are undertaking the restructure of the road and repairs to the damaged vault.”

In 2011 The Star reported a 40 per cent drop in customers because of work on the Crossrail project that started the year before. At the time Mr Forte said business had been “dramatically affected” by the works.

Ms Forte said: “Its frustrating that they keep putting the opening date back. The project was originally due to open in 2018 so it will actually be three years late when it does complete. It’s quite disruptive living with their ongoing mess.”

A Crossrail Ltd statement said: “We rec­ognise that the construction of the station at Tottenham Court Road has imp­acted a number of local businesses located in the immediate vicinity of our site and have worked hard to ensure that any impacts are kept to a minimum. We have been in regular contact with the owners of the Star Café and London Gin Club throughout the station’s construction. We continue to liaise closely with the London Gin Club as works are undertaken that will allow the business to reopen.”

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