Walking down Great Ormond Street into Lamb’s Conduit Street in central London a few days ago I noticed that the Starbucks which used to be on the corner of these two roads had shut down. I haven’t yet been able to get any kind of ‘official’ confirmation as to why it closed down – and when I last checked about an hour ago Starbucks still listed it as open on their corporate website. A celebratory tweet of 26 October from The Lamb Bookshop is the earliest evidence of the shut down I could find from a quick online search:
“Oh my gosh, Starbucks has closed on Lamb’s Conduit Street! We are now a completely indie high street!!!!”
The Jonestown London Blog (2 November) contains the following information about the short term future use of the empty property (but gives no reasons for the Starbucks closure):
“Organised with the help of Darkroom, property consultants Farebrother and Cube PR… the panel are calling out for retailers, curators and designers to send in proposals for a pop-up store, opening December 5th and closing on January 2nd, 2013.
The winner will get the space for FREE – at Lamb’s Conduit Street’s busiest time of year. FOR REALSIES.
No.70 is a huge corner site – the old Starbucks unit – weighing in at 895 square feet (with 684 square feet of storage). A white shell – it’ll be up to the winner to make it as loopy and inviting as they can. Plus, it’s opposite The Lamb, so it’ll be full of boozy Christmas shoppers – perfect selling conditions.”
The only Google review of the closed Starbucks on Lamb’s Conduit Street had this to say about it: “Overall: Poor to fair. Liked: Value. Disliked: Food, Service, Atmosphere.” Which pretty much sums up any Starbucks, although given the coffee is rubbish it is difficult to see how it could be good value. Bad food and bad coffee are over-priced even when they’re nominally ‘cheap’.
Following the tweet trail backwards I noticed that another central London Starbucks on Exmouth Market had closed recently too. Drew Benvie tweets on 18 October:
“Anyone know why Starbucks shut down its Exmouth Market cafe? I’ve never seen a Starbucks close down, and on such a prime street.”
Benvie received this reply from Neil Young (77):
“I happened to go in on the day they closed — they just said for ‘business reasons’. Too much good coffee in immediate vicinity?”
Gresham’s Law states that “bad money drives out good” – but when it comes to cafes it now seems that the reverse might also be true, and that good coffee can indeed drive out bad coffee even when corporate outlets attempt to saturate all of London with their unwanted branding. The Starbucks corporate website currently lists the Exmouth Market branch as closed, but they’re still either behind or not being honest about their Lamb’s Conduit Street operation having shut down: possibly because there were widely reported protests against it opening back in 2006.
In 2009 Starbucks reported a £47 million pound trading loss on its UK operations in the previous year and shut some London outlets saying that the closures would continue into 2010. It seems the shut downs are being rolled over all the way into 2012 and beyond. Let’s hope this trend contiunes until there are no branches of Starbucks to be found anywhere in London!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!
Comment by Cappuccino Kid on 2012-11-18 02:54:33 +0000
They should close Costa Coffee too!
Comment by Jock Mactavish on 2012-11-18 02:59:45 +0000
How is Conduit Street pronounced? Been wondering for years. Thanks in advance!
Comment by Michael Roth on 2012-11-18 06:47:01 +0000
Two down, 20,000 more to go. Toot toot!
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-18 08:06:40 +0000
I love Lambs Conduit Street!
Comment by NickP on 2012-11-18 09:43:50 +0000
I once sold about fifty Black Sparrpw Press books I’d nicked from Foyles at that poetry bookshop in Lambs’ Conduit Street. The guy who ran the shop was a miserable old git (and maybe had good reason to be so). He gave me 7 quid for the books and sold them for 8 quid each. Worst deal I ever had from a book seller. I only accepted the money because it was late in the day and I was beginning to cluck. That was circa 1983.
Comment by Percy on 2012-11-18 10:16:41 +0000
Traditionally and locally Conduit was pronounced cun-dit, but spelling pronunciations have taken over. I’d go for con-dwit (two syllables) rather than con-du-it.
Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-11-18 17:32:53 +0000
@ NickP I think you mean Turret Books run by the near-legendary Bernard Stone in the period in which he had his shop at 42 Lamb’s Conduit Street… Although my memory tells me that would have been in the early nineties rather than 1983 when I think it was in Floral Street. Or was there a secondhand poetry booksshop in Lamb’s Conduit Street in the early/mid-eighties that I’ve forgotten about? I also used to like going to Nick Kimberley’s Duck Soup Bookshop around the corner at 11 Lambs Conduit Passage back in the day when it was there…
Comment by Alan Price on 2012-11-18 18:21:30 +0000
if all starbucks close, will the people have to drink proper coffee?
Comment by Dejan Vulin on 2012-11-18 18:43:38 +0000
Lamb’s Conduit, Exmouth… Hoping to prove ‘American’ espresso as the best in… the Italian Hill area?!! Or to win in ground coffee category over… local off-licenses’ selection of Turkish/Greek/even Serbian imports?!! Or maybe they believed in having, i don’t know, the best bagels in… Islington?!! Did they need market research agency for that? Nice try. Huge.
Comment by Tim Wells on 2012-11-18 21:20:11 +0000
If you’re on Exmouth Market I can’t understand why you wouldn’t coffee at Brill? Good coffee, also sells proper music and run by a top bloke, Mr Jeremy Brill himself. Another plus, it’s opposite Clerkenwell Tales, a tasty independent bookshop.
Comment by Wolfgang Airvent Brabinger on 2012-11-18 22:44:44 +0000
Gr8 News !! I am a glutton for this kind of information. Do you remember the “Sun in the Sands” Pub in Lambs Conduit Street, I was shocked to find it had closed a few years back ..
Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-11-18 23:48:50 +0000
I remember The Sun, which is still a pub but now called The Perseverance, don’t remember Sun in the Sands…. unless this is just an expanded name for the same place….
Comment by Wolfgang Airvent Brabinger on 2012-11-19 00:23:12 +0000
In one of my previous life times I was a drunken bum, Pub names are a bit hazy ..Maybe I am mixing it up with the Sun in the Sands at Blackheath .. I remember drinking in there before the Who concert at Charlton Football Ground .. Wild times .. anyway the Sun was a real good City Pub, Awd Roger in the winter .. he was a bit of a lad !!
Comment by Carl Taylor on 2012-11-19 01:17:11 +0000
What about Starbucks and tax evasion?
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-19 08:30:04 +0000
Indeed what-and Google and Amazon!
Comment by Edna Welthorpe on 2012-11-19 11:41:23 +0000
Oh my, some good news at last!
Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-11-19 12:18:00 +0000
NickP: I know from my time at Foyle’s that one of your stolen Black Sparrow books was by Jack Spicer. His COLLECTED BOOKS by this publisher now goes for £300 or more. Who cares about financial speculation? I hope you read the Spicer before flogging it on.
Turret Bookshop: in the 1970s it was in Kensington. I only went there once – as a visitor to London before I started living here in 1977. Christopher Logue happened to be in the shop. I recognised the deep fruity voice. I couldn’t see him properly as I only had one lens in my spectacles. Which is the reason I went to the bookshop: there I was outside the Paris Pullman for an afternoon screening of Borowczyk’s BLANCHE when mysteriously a lens fell out of my frames and shattered on the ground. I didn’t fancy watching the film with one good eye so I took the poetry option.
Starbucks; damn them for calling themselves after the First Mate in MOBY DICK. Damn them for their silly categories like Tall and Grande. Damn them for offering macchiato with caramel – if they were a pub chain they’d be putting marshmallows in bitter beer, a concoction which Hester Blumenthal is already serving at his Fat Duck. And damn him too but most of all damn Starbucks for the taste of their coffee which leaves an even worse bad taste with the knowledge of their corporate tax-evasion. Damn all the branches which remain smelling as they do of the Starbucks CEO’s grungey underpants. In fact damn corporate chains everywhere. And damn their little links, the small non-corporate businesses whose organic logic if successful leads to the corporate and the conglomerate. Damn all small capitalist businesses apart from Terry Taylor’s sandwich shop. And damn and fuck you Lovefilm for ruining my weekend by sending a damaged unplayable copy of Borowcyzk’s GOTO, ISLAND OF LOVE.
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-19 12:30:41 +0000
Chuckles. Yeah leave Terry Taylor’s sandwich shop out of it!
Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-11-19 15:58:27 +0000
You see Carl Taylor I didn’t need to mention Starbucks and tax evasion – TMITIM dealt with it, and also it has been covered widely elsewhere…. I don’t remember going to Turret Books when it was in Kensington…. I was more into going to places like Dark They Were and Golden Eyed in the mid-seventies (I’m pretty sure I only ever caught up with Bernard Stone after he moved out of Kensington)…. And I never visited Terry Taylor’s sandwhich shop either but then he set that up after he moved out of London…..
Comment by Simon Evans on 2012-11-20 00:58:30 +0000
yeah, I remember the ‘Sun’ in Lambs Conduit Street – funny, I don’t remember much else – except that GOSHospital, is around there, as is the Immigration Illegal Alien registration office, and a Zeppelin once bombed LC street – something about a clock thats stuck to the time it got hit there.
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 10:19:38 +0000
The Lamb in Lambs Conduit street is a good ‘un.
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 10:20:11 +0000
I like Ciaio Belle too.
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 14:21:00 +0000
Not sure that I can spell though!
Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-11-20 17:06:05 +0000
I haven’t been to to Ciao Bella at 86-90 Lamb’s Conduit Street in a few years. It started to get really busy around the time I last went…. But yeah it is good!
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 17:13:04 +0000
It always was busy when I went me and a university friend used to meet up for nice little suppers and a catch up there. Fun times! Think I discovered it when I used to go around London on my bike.
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 17:17:41 +0000
Starbucks closing is great the place is so mediocre. It is such a new arrival, I don’t think it was here in the early nineties. I remember seeing The Seattle Coffee Co and I think that was then bought by S Bucks. I have bought ‘coffee’ there but I can hardly think why and not recently. Also it is another place where they have a funny lock on the toilet door where you are in danger of exposing yourself. That happened to me once although I don’t think any one really noticed!
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 17:20:04 +0000
Exmouth market is nice too although I once heard a programme on the radio from the locals who said no way could they afford to go in places like Moro I think it is called. Both those streets have a really nice vibe and I love Clerkenwell too.
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 17:53:45 +0000
It was a Chuz moment…
Comment by Scarlet Astor on 2012-11-20 17:55:41 +0000
May they be like dominos…
Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-11-20 19:18:00 +0000
Domino pizzas are very much with us unfortunately…
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 20:38:15 +0000
They are only worth eating if you are under the influence.
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 20:38:41 +0000
I have not had one for years thankfully.
Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-11-20 22:02:57 +0000
I had a Domino Pizza in the 1980s and it was so bad I haven’t had one since…. Although I think Scarlet was invoking the domino theory for the collapse of Starbucks. I have only been to Moro in Exmouth Market once – strangely enough with TMITIM – but we were with a mutual acquaintance who makes much more money than we do and she was treating us. The food and service was very good but I’ve no idea how much it cost.
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 22:27:01 +0000
I am sure it cost a fortune. I have never been there but I have heard about it!
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-20 22:29:48 +0000
Twenty odd quid for a main course. Yikes.
Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-11-21 15:29:27 +0000
I’ve eaten several times at Moro tho not recently: these days I don’t have the money and my rich friends, who might take me there, are not keen on being seen with me in public in my latest mask. I have also eaten from the Moro cookbook, served during periods of my confinement. Moro food, an amalgam of North African and Spanish cusiine, is fine but like other London name restaurants is ridiculous in its price – not as ridiculous as St John’s tho, which has its ‘whole animal’ policy, ie as in ‘hole’ or eat the bristles on the beast’s arse into the bargain. But it’s no bargain as you pay through the nose and your every other orifice for the privilege of eating at a restaurant regularly listed as one of the world’s 50 Greatest. Oh, yeah, and I’m Leopold Bloom and I’ve already got through three plates of offal today.
Re the domino theory: I was playing rather willfully on the idea of the pizza chain because I don’t think Scarlet Astor’s analogy holds up in relation to how American imperialism applied the domino theory to Vietnam and other countries in SE Asia which Uncle Sam feared would fall one after another as they ‘copied’ each other and became communist. Many of us would see such a fall as progress – and certainly Starbucks isn’t falling down into communism! For me Starbucks failing/falling can only be likened to literal domino pieces but it’s still a dicey analogy given the currency which the ‘domino effect’ used to have politically.
Speaking of dicey: Blackjack Pizza was a breakaway chain formed in Colorado by a former Domino Pizza employee. The Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold worked for Blackjack who like Domino produce cardboard pies not pizzas. Eating the take-away box would be just as nutritious.
We are what we eat. Eric and Dylan ate so many freebies on the job that they turned into sad cardboard clowns emanating the air of unreality which had such fatal consequences. It was a case of them Going Postal on a pizza washed down with a Starbucks Tall Rio Grande Americano Cross-fire Latte Shootout Lockdown Apocalypto with Dairy-free Egg Nog now that we are near Thanksgiving which had nothing to do with pious We Godly Founding Fathers fending for themselves but Native Americans teaching them how to grow crops, keep warm and cook – the Injuns should have left the future genocidal maniacs to starve to death in their silly inadequate dark Puritan duds…
Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-11-22 12:52:36 +0000
Edna Welthorpe: I forgot to say that I’m on to you, ‘girl’. I know that you are a boy and what number your house is on West End Lane. Now it’s just a case of working out which precise flat/bedsit you and your bald old friend Kenneth are co-habiting in, tho the gasman told me that you might be moving… I will follow you wherever. Further up the Lane in another mask I once followed Ian Curtis out of the Moonlight club. It was the last time he was in London.
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-11-22 14:06:09 +0000
Oh TMinIM has come over all threatening. Why perchance?
Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-11-22 23:15:38 +0000
TMITIM is no doubt onto something. I’m sure all will be revealed in due course. I was pleased that we seemed to have avoided any attempts at astroturf in this thread! But maybe I wasn’t rigorous enough when looking through it and TMITIM has sniffed some out! It does look like it as that comment appears ironic!