London pub gets nudist license

Travel
(CNN) — For many, it’s a bucket-list London experience — sitting at the bar at one of the British city’s oldest and liveliest pubs, pint of beer in hand, soaking up the atmosphere.

Only there’s a twist — you’re totally naked.

If this image sounds like something from a fever-dream, maybe it’s not for you. But for the city’s thriving naturist community, it’s an exciting step forward.

The Coach & Horses, a London institution situated in the city’s buzzing Soho district, has been officially granted a nudist license, allowing customers and bar staff alike to bare it all.

Landlord Alastair Choat says it’s all part of the community atmosphere he’s fostering in his pub — which he might be about to lose.

London landmark

Coach and Horses pub (3)

Soho’s Coach & Horses pub is now nudist-friendly.

Courtesy Kmart

The Coach & Horses — once famed for playing host to “London’s rudest landlord,” Norman Balon — has been run by Choat since 2006. Over the past 13 years, he’s turned the establishment into what he says is London’s first vegan and vegetarian pub.

Choat and his daughter Hollie also revived traditional London pub singalongs and have striven to maintain what they call “the bohemian atmosphere so beloved by writers, journalists, actors and artists.”

Now, that’s been extended to welcome nude guests.

It began with a naked calender, produced by Choat and his staff to help raise proceeds for their campaign to fight off an upcoming takeover by Fuller’s — a London brewery that’s owned the pub since 2011 and doesn’t plan to renew Choat’s lease. Fuller’s wants to bring in its own management.

Speaking to CNN Travel, Choat namechecks Brit flicks “The Full Monty” and “Calendar Girls” as inspiration for this nude enterprise.

“There is this — in times of real need and despair and trying to defend something of value — great British tradition of stripping off,” says Choat.

Staff and regulars alike got involved and the pub produced a 16-month calendar, with 10% of profits going to British homeless charity Centrepoint.

To get its nude project off the road, the pub had to seek permission from local authorities.

Coach and Horses pub (1)

The pub is also selling a naked calender.

Courtesy Kmart

“You have to apply for a special notice,” explains Choat, who says it’s similar to the license needed for adult entertainment establishments.

When the calendar launched, Choat was inundated with calls from naturists across the world asking whether the pub was now welcoming nudists.

“We are going to be planning, in June, a nude night,” he says. “[We] haven’t got the exact date yet, but that’s what’s going be happening — so that all these people phoning up wanting to get naked and have a pint in the center of Soho will be able to do so.”

Choat says any nudity will be pre-arranged, in a consensual environment.

“You do have to have the right staff on, because obviously the team have to be comfortable with it,” he says. “But to be honest with you, when you do these things, after 10, 15, 20 minutes no one notices anymore. It’s a bit like you go to a pub where there’s a band playing and you not very interested in it, after a while it’s just background music.

“If everyone’s naked it’s going to be hilarious, it will be very funny.”

Fight for independence

Coach and Horses pub (2)

Landlord Alastair Choat and his daughter Hollie, pictured, run the pub.

Courtesy Coach & Horses

Choat describes The Coach & Horses as “very much a traditional old boozer.”

When CNN Travel paid the pub a visit, there was no nudity on show. Inside, it’s got a traditional, low-key vibe — wooden bar, piano and Soho locals chatting in cozy corners.

It’s not glamorous but “that’s what people love,” says Choat. He says Fuller’s plan to spruce up the interior wouldn’t be welcome.

“They’re going to make it glorious in terms of their painting and decorating, but it’s never been like that ever. And that’s why people come here.”

As part of the campaign, Choat and his team are staging a play, “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell” by Keith Waterhouse — which is set in the Coach & Horses. He says it’s been very successful with audiences including UK broadcaster Stephen Fry.

Fullers says it intends to retain the pub’s character when it takes over.

“We have been patiently waiting since we purchased it for our time to run the pub,” a spokesperson said. “It is an amazing and historic pub in Soho and, when the tenancy comes to the agreed end, it will become one of the gems in our Managed Pubs & Hotels business.

“We intend to preserve all that is great about this pub and protect her future for locals and tourists to Soho alike and we look forward to meeting with, and listening to, the local Soho community when we take the pub on in June.”

Meanwhile, Choat’s team has launched an online petition, gaining support from more than 10,000 people. There’s also an in-house petition which Choat says has 5,000 signatures.
In the meantime, anyone wanting a drink in their birthday suit should keep an eye on the Coach & Horses Facebook and Twitter accounts for more information.

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