A bar operator has been criticised for ‘making light of poverty” after it unveiled plans to open a pawn shop themed bar in Soho.
Proposals for a new branch of experimental bar Mr Fogg’s based around a pawnbrokers were slammed as “distasteful” and “spectacularly misjudged” in light of the current cost of living crisis.
The parent company of the Mr Fogg’s brand Inception Group, which is also behind brands such as Barts and The London Gin Club, announced on Thursday that their latest venue, Mr Fogg’s Pawnbrokers, would open on February 22.
But critics were quick to point out the conflict between a pawn shop themed bar and the current cost-of-living crisis, with others citing the new bar’s location just opposite St Anne’s Church on the corner of Romilly Street.
Councillor Jessica Toale described the new venture, to be complete with three differently designed rooms and bespoke cocktails, as “incredibly bad taste”.
The West End ward councillor tweeted: “Very disappointed with Inception Group and Mr Fogg’s that at a time families across Westminster, including in Soho, are struggling with the cost of living, they would make light of poverty in such a way. Incredibly bad taste.”
She added that the Mr Fogg’s concept was “usually so innovative” but that this idea “misses the mark”.
This would be the seventh pub to launch under the Mr Fogg’s brand. All have an individual backstory based on namesake Phileas Fogg, the explorer created by Jules Verne for his novel Around the world in 80 days, although this latest opening imagines Fogg’s illegitimate brother rather than being based on the original book.
Council Cabinet Member for Planning Geoff Barraclough also weighed in on the discussion, branding the new concept as “spectacularly misjudged”.
He commented: “A pawnbroker themed bar would be bad taste at any time but in the middle of a cost of living crisis, it’s spectacularly misjudged.”
Others picked up on the intentional play on the word ‘pawn’. Discussing the inspiration behind the pawnbrokers idea, Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of the Inception Group had explained this was “our playful way of bringing ‘porn’ back to Soho”.
The Inception Group insisted that it had had a positive response from both local businesses and Soho residents, as well as its existing customers.
A spokesperson for the hospitality group said: “The Mr Fogg’s brand is synonymous with fictional Victorian storytelling and we endeavour to create an immersive experience for our customers by giving them a feel for what life was like in Victorian times.
“Mr Fogg’s Pawnbrokers has simply recreated the look and feel of a Victorian shop with a huge amount of antiquities and collectables on display in cabinets and on counters.
“Pawnbrokers were an integral part of Victorian life in England and on some streets in London it would not be unusual to find more pawnshops than public houses.”
The spokesperson added that the premises would not engage in pawnbroking services in any way, although Gilkes suggested that a free drink would be on offer for customers who bring in old clocks, to be part of the scenery.
Image: Flickr/Ewan Munro.