I can never think PizzaExpress without recalling love affairs, tangled, sometimes complex, occasionally eased over a well stretched pizza. Now PizzaExpress is coming to our town. I’d like to know your views on whether this is good for Ludlow.
Way back in the late 1970s, marauding hoards of archaeologists young and old met in PizzaExpress in Covent Garden on a Friday night to debate the world of the past – and our fears for its future – over glorious pizza. I was there seeking love amid heritage. I stoked my passions for both with carafes of red wine.
Fast forward twenty years to the 1990s and yet again I have memories of love around pizzas. My then companion represented one of pop industry’s leading singers and barely got a break from the pressures of business. I was building a company in Oxfordshire and rapidly approaching burnout. Together we whiled away what evenings we could spare in Marylebone PizzaExpress, sharing our fascination for heritage and love of pizza.
Twenty years onwards again, and pizza and heritage are in my mind again. But I am not sure I am in love with what’s happening.
The Marches on Ludlow’s Market Square has applied for a licence for serve alcohol when it converts to PizzaExpress. It’s the building that used to be the George Inn.
I like PizzaExpress.
But I can’t ignore that this is also another intrusive national brand coming to our town of independent traders. In recent years we have seen Costa, WH Smiths, Fat Face and Crewe invade. Wildwood took over De Greys. I see tourists packing Costa and local people rushing along the street clutching an insulated cup of the branded steaming brew. (Please don’t rush, this is Ludlow.) I’ve drunk Costa coffee occasionally but in my book it’s a beverage marked down for emergencies rather than a pleasure. As for Fat Face and Crewe, the shirts in their windows cost more than I would ever consider spending on clothes. I confess to buying a newspaper or two in Smiths.
I don’t care much for brands. The only brand I slavishly adore is Marmite. I have never had a Marmite pizza and I can’t see one on the PizzaExpress menu. But as a Marmite Baby, I’m thinking of experimenting in that direction.
In a unique town like ours, national chains fail to sparkle against the local provision. But they do attract customers, especially visitors lured by the huge advertising campaigns of the major chains – or maybe they really like Costa Coffee. But if we get more national brands moving in, Ludlow will become nothing other than a clone shopping town with historic buildings attached.
We don’t have any planning or other powers to prevent the arrival of an international pizza chain. The conversion of The Marches to PizzaExpress can’t be blocked.
But I would like to know whether you think this is a good idea or another slip down a slippery slope to Ludlow losing its unique character.
PizzaExpress has applied to Shropshire Council for a Premises Licence to be known as PizzaExpress, The Marches, 19 Castle Street, Ludlow SY8 1AT.
Supply of alcohol: 11am to midnight Monday to Sunday. Late night refreshment: 23:00 to 00:30 Monday to Sunday. Recorded music and opening hours: 11am to 00:30 Monday to Sunday.
New Year’s Eve: permitted hours (set nationally).
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