A hugely popular theatre bookshop in Fitzrovia is set to close after almost 200 years following a major hike in rent.
Samuel French Theatre Bookshop, on Fitzroy Street, plans to set up new offices in Euston and go online-only after its landlord propsed a rent increase of at least 200 per cent.
Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition demanding the bookshop is saved, while actor Sir Derek Jacobi has also spoken out in support.
The Last Tango in Halifax star told the Camden New Journal: “It is quite unique, it will be dreadful to lose it.
“Over the course of my career I have often been there and found it an incredible resource when you are looking for plays, both modern and almost extinct ones.
“They are always very helpful – as a theatrical resource, it is second to none. London theatre is possibly the best in the world and French’s serves it. There is a clear link between the support French’s gives to the theatre industry, and London’s tourist trade. It must be saved, for the good of all.”
A Samuel French bookshop has existed on various sites around London since 1830 but moved to its present location in 1983.
Managing Director Douglas Schatz said: “It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the closure of our bookshop in April – we’re extremely sad to see it go and send a huge thank you to all the staff and customers from all over the world who’ve supported the shop through the years.
“However, we are also very excited about the future of Samuel French, with the growth of our online shop, our innovation in digital play reading, the forthcoming relaunch of our Acting Edition play texts and our expanding catalogue of new authors.”
He added that the bookshop was "very touched" by the petition's "huge expression of support".
It calls for the bookshop’s “status as a community asset of cultural importance” to be acknowledged.
However, it wrongly addresses Camden Council as the decision-maker. Councillor Abdul Hai, Cabinet Member for Customers, Communities and Culture at Camden Council, said: “I’m disappointed to hear that the Samuel French bookshop is to close as it has been such a popular cultural resource for people for so many years.
“But contrary to what has been suggested by the online petition, Camden Council is not the landlord for the building, and as such has no control over the rent rates that are being charged nor the decision to close.”
A spokesman for landlord the Linton Group told the Standard: “Linton Group are disappointed that Samuel French has decided to close the bookshop on 52 Fitzroy Street after its longstanding business history.
“Linton Group always support their tenants’ businesses to the best of their abilities, as it is important to Linton to promote independent and small business for which central London property prices can prove out of reach.
“However it is important that the group takes into consideration changing market conditions which has led to a necessary review of the rates at 52 Fitzroy Street. We wish Samuel French well in their new endeavours and hope the new tenants will bring a fresh dimension to the street.”