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Friern Barnet Library squatters take over The Bohemia pub in North Finchley
Squatters who occupied Friern Barnet Library have taken over the closed Bohemia pub in North Finchley.
The group, which took control of the council-owned library for more than five months from last September, gained access to the High Road pub in North Finchley last night (Thursday).
Squat leader Pete Pheonix, who led the beginnings of the community takeover of Friern Barnet Library, told the Times Series he was given a set of keys by an unnamed individual.
The squatters have already posted a notice on the window of the pub proclaiming the building theirs and warning that trespassers face six-months imprisonment or a £5,000 fine.
The Bohemia was unexpectedly shut down by owners Mitchells and Butlers in August when the pub company declined to renew the tenancy of Gregarious Ltd, which was running The Bohemia.
The closure, almost a year to the day from when it first opened, led to an outcry from staff and local residents.
Mr Phoenix, a self-proclaimed ‘community activist’ who has been running squatting operations of vacant public buildings for more than 20 years, said the group has plans for the currently vacant building.
He said: “We’re going to be running it as some sort of community centre. We’ll be offering cups of tea, giving housing advice, workshops.”
Asked why the group decided to occupy the building, he said: “We like doing community projects. Some of our group needed some housing as well and it is here empty. We love Barnet. We got a great reception here last time and some of the crew wanted to come back.”
Mr Phoenix admitted he was yet to have any discussions with Mitchells and Butlers but said he was “open to negotiations” over what will happen to the building.
He said: “If the owners want to talk to us reasonably, then we will. We’re always willing to leave at an agreed date, but it could be weeks or months."
Asked if he was a nuisance to owners of private buildings such as The Bohemia, Mr Phoenix said: "I wouldn't use those words. I’m a community advocate who has helped set up a large number of community projects and I have done that with love and dedication. It’s good to be back.”
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