Tributes have been paid to Geoffrey Van-Hay – the former landlord of El Vino’s on Fleet Street, who is fondly remembered by many of the national press journalists who used to frequent the famous hostelry.
Van-Hay died on New Year’s Eve aged 72 and his funeral is being held today.
John Knight, writing on Gentleman Ranters, recalls how Knight (then proprietor of drinking club Scribes) once persuaded member Carol Thatcher to successfully ask her mum (then the Prime Minister) to open a new club for him.
Knight writes: “Banning unruly customers had been the rule of the day for more than a century. Hugh Cudlipp and Cassandra got their marching orders for aggressive drunken behaviour and so did Vicky, the beserk-in-drink left wing cartoonist. But all three claimed that they had barred themselves because they didn’t like the snobbery in El Vino. Men had to wear suits and ties…
Paul Callan, also on Gentelman Ranters, writes: “Van was as much part of Fleet Street as the Black Lubianka, the sturdy Telegraph building, Reuters, the plaque of Edgar Wallace, and pubs like the Mucky Duck, the Bell, the Cheese and even Mick’s CafÃ© (serving bacon sarnies to mop last night’s booze…
“On one occasion, he was the first line of defence when a monstrous legion of Fleet Street hackettes, led by Mary Kenny and Valerie Grove, invaded El Vino to establish their right to stand by the bar and be served.
“Van barred their way, announcing that ‘Ladies would not be served today’ – a statement that only infuriated them. Inevitably, a fight broke out and poor Van was almost strangled when one of them dragged him around by the tie. (They all finally retreated after the late Willi Frischauer, another great Fleet Street character, threw jugs of water over them. The prospect of having their hair ruined was just too much to bear.)”