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Do we really have to lose Pizza on the Park?

UPDATE 21/4/10. There is now a Facebook Group protesting against the closure

The story is out. Pizza on the Park is likely to close as a music venue on June 24th. The landlord at 11/13 Knightsbridge, SW1, has given the restaurant operators of the ground floor and basement their notice to quit. And with it will, probably, disappear that rare thing, a jazz and cabaret venue in an absolute prime London location.

It’s a room with a history. Popular with performers. Barbara Cook anyone? Or John Dankworth’s post-knighthood party with NYJO? I bet LondonJazz readers have their memories. Tell me.

So what’s happening? Westminster had its planning meeting to approve the redevelopment and to permit change of use into a boutique hotel way back in April 2007, but the owners of the building have only recently stirred themselves to start the development.

A nice irony here is that the Landlord’s company which sought the change of use application is registered as an offshore corporation called……. Rhimesong.

I’ve read the lengthy detailed resolution which went before the planning committee. And I would find one thing about it quite funny if wasn’t so serious. In 28 pages the music venue doesn’t get a single mention. Refuse collection, yes. Types of wood in window frames, yes. London Underground still having access to the Piccadilly Line tube platforms underneath – it’s an absorbing read.

But all you get about the ground floor and basement is the mention that there is a restaurant. And that any value it might have as a local amenity – with the planned hotel there will be a substantial reduction in the number of covers in the restaurant – was not a sufficient reason to intervene.

As for the music room, nada.

The author of the report, the Acting Director of City Planning and Development for Westminster Council, and therefore the councillors who decided on the basis of his or her paper, quite simply never even knew that you audience and you musicians had been there.

For the studious among you, here’s the Planning Resolution from 2007. It seems hard to believe this venue is going to disappear quite so silently when it’s been such a special place for such a lot of people. What do you think?

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