Published: 21 November, 2013
by ALICE HUTTON
A “GOULASH Co-operative” has been formed to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds within the next two weeks to buy the Gay Hussar in Soho and keep it as a haunt for “future generations of rebels and Rabelaisians”.
For £500, diners, chefs, waiters and friends can purchase a share of the Hungarian restaurant in a bid to preserve its rich literary, journalistic and political history after its leasehold was put up for sale in October.
Although a fight-back had been mooted for weeks with an Early Day Motion in parliament on November 8 and scores of left-wing characters creaking out of the woodwork to decry the news of the potential demise of their canteen, West End Extra can reveal that the Goulash Co-operative has now been formed and a website taking donations will go live in the next few days.
Founding organisers include John Goodman, son of the late journalist Geoffrey Goodman who was one of the restaurant’s most loyal customers, Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson, Chris Kaufman of Unite, Hussar manager John Wrobel and former Tribune editor and Al-Jazeera broadcaster Mark Seddon with Tom Watson MP as their honorary president.
The Greek Street institution, which was founded by the late Victor Sassie in 1953, was put up for sale by owner Corus Hotels, a Malaysian conglomerate, without warning or discussion.
The leasehold will be sold by blind bid, with all offers in by December 5, giving the newly formed co-op a two-week window to raise the necessary funds.
Mr Goodman told West End Extra that their target sum will remain a secret because of the blind bid but that it was below Corus’s asking price of £500,000. “The Hussar is a great institution which has made a significant contribution over the last 60 years,” he said. “We are hoping this will be a co-op of diners, chefs and waiters.”
Mr Kaufman added: “As far as we know it is the only Hungarian restaurant in London.
“But it has always been more than a restaurant of course. It is a wonderful haunt of journalists, politicos and literary types.”
In the Early Day Motion proposed by Labour MP John Cryer it was noted: “That the Gay Hussar has played an important role in the culinary, political and journalistic life of the capital for more than 60 years and as such is an important national institution; and [this House] applauds any initiative, including a possible diners’ and staff co-operative venture, as a means of keeping the Gay Hussar alive for future generations of rebels and Rabelaisians to enjoy.”
• www.goulash.coop is expected to go live with details of how to buy shares within the next few days.