Making the Unaccountable Accountable

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is an everyday story to outrage you. It concerns Gaby’s, a successful but unpretentious deli in central London’s theatreland that has been open for business now for nearly half a century. During the day it is full of tourists and a highly varied assortment of people who work locally. In the evening it becomes an oasis for good value and empathetic humanity in the crowded, expensive and often alienating marketplace that is 21st century central London. It is described by Londontown.com as “A friendly, efficient deli-come-diner which serves a range of meals encompassing the cooking styles of the Middle East, Greece and Italy … The staff are friendly if slightly over-worked, and the place is full of noisy, happy people. Gaby’s is great.”

Gaby’s may be great, but unfortunately it is at risk of closure, since a planning application has been granted for its redevelopment as a chain restaurant. Suddenly, half a century of hard graft by 71-year-old immigrant Gaby Elyahou looks set to be destroyed because its landlord, Gascoyne Holdings, wants to transfer the license to a big company. Presumably so that Gascoyne Holdings and the big company can make a fat profit. And no doubt pay its bosses a better bonus.  Now I had a look recently at Companies House at the listing of Gascoyne’s Directors. One of them appears to be no less than Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the 7th Marquess of Salisbury.

The Marquess is an aristocrat of the first water, springing no doubt from generations of the very highest breeding. He lives in one of the UK’s great country houses, Hatfield House, and is, amongst other things, the Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire. A small slice of his career shows that he was Under Secretary of State at the Ministry Of Defence 1992-94, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords from 1994-97, Shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland and Shadow Leader of the House of Lords 1997-98. According to Debretts he also has the following titles; Baron Cecil (E 1603), Viscount Cranborne (E 1604), Earl of Salisbury (E 1605); and Baron Gascoyne-Cecil (Life Peer UK 1999), of Essendon, Co Rutland. There is more, much more. One can only speculate what wealth backs up this extraordinary life, and wonder at the notion of even comparing it to that of our humble Iraqi-Israeli immigrant owner of Gaby’s, Gaby Elyahou, but I thought the pairing interesting, and so I decided to write to the Marquess to get his view about Gaby’s situation.

Actually, to be accurate, I e mailed Adam Wiles, Estate Manager for Gascoyne Holdings, asking the Marquess for an explanation. Twice. On neither occasion did I receive so much as a reply. So I guess now I better move up a gear. I have copied my e mails to Boris Johnson’s office (Boris is rumoured to be against the proposed eviction), and am posting this on Twitter, Facebook and my Blog. Next week, if I still have not received a reply, I will look to get something into a newspaper. Then I will contact the Marquess’s PR firm for comment. Regularly, or at least until I get the courtesy of a reply. In the meantime, can I propose that as many people as possible e mail Mr. Wiles at a.wiles@gascoyneholdings.co.uk or phone him on +44 20 7240 9144, also asking the erstwhile Marquess for an explanation? The Marquess’s PR head, Julie Loughlin might also be worth contacting at: j.loughlin@hatfield-house.co.uk  +44 1707 287093. (Now look at what you have done – or rather not done – Mr. Wiles).

If you want more information, including an idea of the large number of celebrities getting involved in this due to its proximity to London theatres, here are some relevant web addresses, including an online petition (currently over 6000 signatures) , facebook page and a few recent articles about Gaby’s:

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-gaby-s-deli-charing-cross-road-london.html

https://www.facebook.com/save.gabys.deli

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tag/save-gabys

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24020771-campaign-to-save-gabys-deli-hots-up-as-tv-host-laverne-lends-support.do

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jan/18/in-praise-of-gabys-deli

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/11/gabys-deli-theatreland-closure

No one in their right mind wants this eviction; so enough people need to make a noise about the injustice of it.  Write, call, and add your voice to the campaign. Let’s make the unaccountable accountable.

Marshall Marcus © February 2012

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