Notting Hill has changed. Rents are going up, boutique and traditional shops are disappearing and big high street is moving in. Lest it be known that I have also been caught up in his great disappearing act in a battle to protect and save my local, beloved cafe “Haminados” in Notting Hill, which is open 7 days a week from 6am in the morning till 10PM, endlessly serving the community and which has been there for me when I most needed it, especially when working late in the City after a difficult day in the office. These kind people make beautiful, delicious home cooked food and have only benefited the community. So, what does the council do when a neighbour makes a complaint against “noise” in their back garden? It forces them to shut their garden after hours and weekends, crippling their business. It gets worse – the order has forced them to shut their windows as well.
At the same time, the landlord has increased the rent by 65%! None else in the village is paying these rates. Thanks to “Thatcherism”, there are no rent controls anymore since the abolition of the Housing Act in 1988. I was never a big fan of “Red Ed”, but rental control was one of Labours’ policies and I can see that it can provide appropriate checks and balances against predatory capitalism as is on display here.
People who really believe in the benefits of capitalism and that the markets effortlessly correct themselves only know how much nonsense that is after the last financial crisis; only on a more micro level, can rampant capitalism be felt where landlords and franchises try to squeeze every last dollar out of tenants and consumers. Some may say that this is the ‘law of the jungle’ but after having observed what I see is happening to London and why people are starting to clear out, it results in a city without soul; the last thing that Notting Hill needs is another nail and beauty salon.
It goes further – we were out in Soho on Thursday night and I could not help observe the number of chain establishments that have made their way into the area, taking something away from this thriving part of London. Local corner stores that would’ve been part and parcel of the establishment are replaced by soulless chains serving the same old homogenous sh*t that they sell across London.
You may say that I myself am a living example of this working in the City, and perhaps there is a little bit of an inconsistency there since after all since i have only known the “gentrified Notting Hill” and not the rough place it allegedly was. However what I have experienced with my local cafe is that there is no substitute for something that is unique, kind and loving and that has character. These places make a difference to our daily lives, and nothing that a chain or franchise could offer or replace. Hopefully sanity will prevail in this case, but I really do fear for small businesses that make a difference to local communities.
Lets see if the voice of the local (and global) community will be heard. I for one, can only hope so.
(if you are curious about this place called “Haminados”, there is of course my FB page but also Yelp has a site dedicated to it as well.http://www.yelp.com/biz/haminados-london or see http://www.facebook.com/savehaminados.