Gordon Ramsay’s hotel-restaurant in London, the York & Albany, was taken over by squatters.The occupiers turned it into a community space, but eviction proceedings appear to have started.UK laws make commercial property squatting a civil matter, resulting in costly legal proceedings.

Gordon Ramsay is having a kitchen nightmare.

Last week, London’s Metropolitan Police were made aware of a group of squatters who had taken over his York & Albany hotel-restaurant in Camden, a pricey borough of London.

It’s unclear when they entered the property, which was temporarily closed while the celebrity chef finalized a new lease, according to reports.

But the group was clearly occupying the space by the weekend, and made it clear they had no intention of leaving.

Renaming the site “Camden Art Cafe,” the group pasted a notice on the building citing a legal provision that — for the time being at least — appears to make it impossible for anyone, including Ramsay, to kick them out.

A legal notice taped to the outside of York & Albany, Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant and hotel in Camden, London, on April 15, 2024, as squatters occupy it.

In 2012, the UK made squatting a criminal offense — as long as it happens on residential property.

But on commercial properties, squatting remains a civil matter. This means police can’t simply evict squatters from places like York & Albany — in fact, any attempt to do so without other grounds is itself against the law.

The Met Police earlier told BI that the matter was “a civil matter and so police did not attend as an emergency call out.” It also said it was “in the process of identifying if any subsequent offences have occurred.”

Getting commercial squatters out is no simple matter, and involves a convoluted procedure — generally costing thousands of dollars in legal bills, legal experts told BI.

“It’s not an ideal situation — that seems to go without saying,” Niall Helferty, a solicitor at Kuits Solicitors, said.

Property owners have to take the matter to court, applying for a possession order. There are multiple hoops to jump through in an often-clogged London court system, though courts do tend to prioritize matters like this, Helferty said.

Asked what the squatters might be able to do in response, Andrew Whitehead, a partner at Stephensons Solicitors, told BI that “if there’s no tenancy agreements and if they’ve effectively broken in and refuse to leave, it would appear that there’s no rights for them to be at the property at all.”

Even so, getting them out won’t come cheap.

Both solicitors roughly estimated Ramsay’s potential legal costs at between $6,000 and $12,000, depending on the billing rates of his legal team.

As well as direct legal costs, commercial squatting also presents other concerns for property owners, including loss of income.

York & Albany wasn’t in operation — it is on the market for a reported $16 million, following a legal battle between Ramsay and the building’s freeholder. So Ramsay isn’t facing any loss of business at the site.

But property owners, and business owners like Ramsay, will be wondering “what damage is being done internally,” Helferty said.

Representatives for Ramsay did not respond to BI’s requests for comment.

Squatters with a message

Gordon Ramsay isn’t exactly known for his gentle, patient side — he’s built an empire partly on his gruff attitude.

Even so, it can’t be comfortable being made the focal point of an anti-gentrification campaign.

In an interview with The Independent, all of the squatters went by the pseudonym of “Gordon” — but their ire seems just as broadly directed at wealth inequality in London than at Ramsay himself.

The borough where the restaurant is located, according to the group’s statement, has “one of the biggest wealth disparities in London.” A Camden Council report from 2015 said that while a quarter of its residents live on the equivalent of $25,000 or less, the average house price is about $780,000.

The squatter group did not respond to multiple interview requests, but when BI’s Grace Dean visited on Monday, she found a quietly humming space where people got on with painting and chatting about the local community.

According to The Independent, members of the group were whipping up pasta and lattes when its reporter visited, and were keeping a strict cleaning rota.

Neighbors told the paper that the group “haven’t been too loud,” with some expressing support for their cause.

On Tuesday, the squatters updated their Instagram account to say that legal papers had been served to them, and that the café was on hold.

It’s unclear exactly what stage the legal process has reached. But Helferty said it’s likely that a court hearing has now been scheduled, meaning that time could be ticking for them.

Regardless of how long they get to stay, the group has gathered plenty of attention, and probably caused Ramsay more than a few headaches.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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