Magazine article The Spectator

Name Dropping

Magazine article The Spectator

Name Dropping

Article excerpt

New York In the 45 years I spent going to Annabel's I never once heard anyone say, 'Let's go to Birley's.' It was Annabel's or Harry's, or Mark's, but never Birley's. Now I read that Richard Caring, the man who bought Mark Birley's joints, is trying to stop Robin Birley, Mark's only son, from using his own name for the new club he's planning in Mayfair.

Admittedly, I'm a friend of Robin, and have never met Caring, but surely one has the rights to one's own name. Caring says that he's bound to honour his agreement with Mark Birley and uphold the standards Mark set in his clubs. Well, this is as much of a joke as trying to stop Robin using his own name. I have not set foot in Annabel's since it was sold, but friends tell me the place now resembles a bad Baghdad nightclub without the threat of IEDs. George's, where I still go, is overcrowded and the clientele is, for lack of a better word, awful and very downmarket rich. Harry's Bar, apparently, is still holding the line because of Luciano, the maitre d' who runs it, but any resemblance between the way things were under Birley and the present are based purely on the address of the premises.

Which makes the assertion that the Birley name might be misused even more of a joke.

Caring knows how to sell clothes and how to fill seats in restaurants. He knows as much about upholding standards as I do about monogamy, which is fine. We can't all be as discerning as Mark was - except that Robin Birley is. Caring fills his joints with such good-lookers as Philip Green; Robin will go down the Harry Worcester road. And another thing. When he was alive, it was Mark Birley Holdings Ltd that owned the trade mark. Not Birley's, the name Robin plans to use. What Richard Caring is doing is nothing new, nor is it original. He learnt his manners in the rag trade and applies them now to nightclubs. He is trying to discourage people from joining Birley's, a terrific venture, when it gets going next year.

For any of you who might be interested, the brochures are out already and the services planned are amazing. The building itself will be out of this world - in Shepherd Market - and there will be rooms to let and 24-hour room service. Knowing Robin's sense of perfection, it's no wonder that Richard Caring is trying to stop him using his own name. Personally, I can't wait, and I plan to join as soon as I get to London. Not to have to rub shoulders with low lifes will make a change after the last few years. The accent will be on youth, and by that I don't mean hoodies or Gaddafi types. …

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