Food News

What Went Wrong at the Uptown Londoner, and What It Means for the Pub Chain's Future

Last week the Uptown location of the Londoner was shuttered. Owner Barry Tate couldn't successfully negotiate a lease with his landlord, and after five years of serving Uptown residents pints of beer and fish and chips, he was permanently locked out of the building.

Charlotte Tate, Barry's daughter, who manages the restaurant group's legal affairs in addition to managing the restaurants, said the Uptown location of the Londoner has always had problems with its lease. When her father first took control of the property, it wasn't a bar at all, but a rundown house with bad foundation issues. TABC had been doing good business just down Thomas Street, so Barry negotiated a lease with the landlord, agreed to share some expenses like foundation repair and proceeded to build a bar and commercial kitchen into the little house.

Except restaurants in Dallas never seem to open on schedule. And an issue with sprinklers (Barry was told he wouldn't need them, and later that he did) delayed the opening date. When he missed a rent payment, he found the doors locked and his previous lease null and void. And when he met his landlord to discuss a new lease the terms had changed significantly. The original rent -- the number he'd based all his business projections on -- was just less than $10,000. The subsequent lease demanded $20,720.

Barry might have walked away, but he'd just poured a lot of money into the building and didn't want to lose his investment. Besides, other bars on McKinney Avenue paid similar monthly rent payments, and he still thought he could make a profit.

But according to Charlotte, the Uptown Londoner never made a profit. While the other locations of the family bars were consistently successful, the Londoner lagged behind -- trapped in a lease their monthly revenue had no chance of outpacing.

The Tates tried to buy the building, but they couldn't agree on terms with the owner, and a recent late rent payment caused the doors to be shuttered again. This time the closure would be permanent.

Profitability aside, the Uptown location of the Londoner was one of the best in the group. The small, quirky house gave the bar the feeling of an authentic pub, in a way that other pubs struggle to pull off. It was also a great neighborhood spot, a bar that locals could (and did) walk to. But perhaps the closure will help to drive more customers to the Greeville Avenue location that's still getting its footing.

Charlotte says many of her regular customers have started the transition to the new location, which opened later last year in the space that used to hold Rhost. But her old locals, the ones who used to walk to the bar, are having a harder time, and The Nodding Donkey and the newly opened Boxwood don't require a drive.

Still, she says, she's trying, and she's banking on soccer to help. The Uptown Londoner had become the go to spot for Dallas-based soccer fans.

"The Greenville location will be open for all the matches the Uptown would have shown," she says.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz