10,000 sign petition to save London’s famous India Club

Patrick Grafton-Green
The India Club faces an uncertain future: India Club

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition to save The Strand’s famous India Club and halt plans to refurbish the historic restaurant and bar to make way for an up-market hotel.

If plans are approved by Westminster Council, owners of numbers 143 and 145 of the Strand will be able to launch extensive modernisation that could wipe out the carefully preserved club, which has stayed the same since the 1940s.

Freeholders Marston Properties intend to replace the India Club's first-floor canteen-style restaurant and lounge bar with en-suite hotel rooms.

The ambitious plans have been met with angry opposition with a petition gaining 10,651 signatures at the time of publication.

Hundreds of comments have been left in which fans of the club described it as “irreplaceable” and “of immense historic significance”.

10,000 have signed a petition to save the club

One person wrote: “It is unique, irreplaceable and part of our shared heritage. Please do not destroy it.

"Rather please go and visit it and see what would be lost!”

Another added: “A fantastic community restaurant of immense historic significance with its ties to the fathers of Indian independence.”

“London doesn't need more hotel rooms, but it does need to retain and maintain its historic cultural properties, areas and artefacts which have helped it merge in to the world's preeminent city,” another said.

Celebrity fans include writer Will Self, who described the club as "beautifully old-fashioned... like one in 1950s India".

Yadgar Marker, who has been director of the club for 20 years, told the Standard last month: “I’m very, very saddened because I wanted it to remain as it was.

“I could have easily modernised it but it has such a strong heritage. It is a really marvellous place.”

The club – whose lease expires in 2019 – was started by Krishna Menon, India's first High Commissioner to the UK in the late 1940s.

It served as a meeting place for the India League, a British organisation that campaigned for India's independence, and founding members included Lady Edwina Mountbatten and India’s first post-independence Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

During and after India's break from British hegemony in 1947, it hosted leading writers, intellectuals and politicians associated with the nationalist movement. On the walls hang portraits of Gandhi and Britain's first Asian MP, Dadabhai Naoroji.

A spokesman for Marston Properties said that the plans submitted to the council represented one of several options for the building under consideration.

"No one has stated or indicated at any time that the India Club or any other tenants in the building will be asked to vacate the premises," he said.

He added: "The submission of a planning application for the building is just one explorative option open to Marston in their long term strategy setting - and while [it] remains an option, it is certainly not a notice whatsoever of our intention and must not be interpreted as such."