For many, owning a pub would be a dream come true. If you happen to be the leader of a rock group hunting for a place to play regularly, then snaring somewhere that provides your band with a residency is tantamount to winning the jackpot.
Take a bow, Bob Kidby. For those not previously acquainted with London’s most genial property lawyer, rocktastic Kidby is the axe-wielding, fret-burning former head of real estate at legacy Hogan Lovells firm Lovells who former colleagues have always known was Born to be Wild.
Despite being a fixture in property circles for aeons, despite being credited with inventing the Mexican Wave concept of farming out low-end work to lower cost firms, and despite having one of the most famous moustaches in legal-market history, Kidby will forever be synonymous with screaming lead-guitar solos. They are, after all, his trademark.
Kidby’s string-twanging skills have been most recently on display at the legal profession’s battle of the bands, Law Rocks, at London’s legendary 100 Club – host to bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Rolling Stones and Van Morrison.
Back in the world of the law, last year Kidby left Lovells to take up an executive director role at property developer Welbeck Land. Cue the new pub.
“Alistair [Watson, managing director of Welbeck] always fancied being a landlord,” jokes Kidby.
Watson and the venue-hunting Kidby, who has always lived Life in the Fast Lane, both got their wish when they unearthed a rundown boozer in the heart of London’s West End.
Welbeck initially bought the pub, The Apollo in Paddington Street, as part of a potential development. When Welbeck took ownership of it, the pub was derelict. Presumably the property company hoped it would make a little Money for Nothing.
“We thought it was a shame to let it go to waste,” says Kidby.
So the company appointed experienced pub manager Ian Grundy to oversee its rebirth and had the Marylebone drinking hole refurbished.
Kidby told The Lawyer that the pub is adjacent to the only tower block in Westminster chock-full of accountants. Bad Company indeed.
“That was the initial clientele,” he says. “Maybe after this article it will be chock-full of lawyers too, although it’s already had some visiting legal dignitaries.”
Law firm royalty who graced the opening night included Hogan Lovells’ very own Brown Eyed Girl Jackie Newstead and DLA Piper’s Jumpin’ Jack Flash David Taylor.
The grand reopening of The Apollo, quite possibly up a Stairway to Heaven to the freshly painted White Room, was on 17 November last year. Kidby’s band, Clarence King and the Regents, topped the bill, performing to a room crammed with HonkyTonk Women and more than one Street-Fighting Man.
And in case you were wondering what Kidby’s band sounds like, allow the great man to elucidate.
“It’s less jazzy than before – more a fusion of jazz, ska, rock, swing and blues,” claims the rockster, proving that he is unafraid to use the dreaded ’fusion’ word. “It’s basically music to dance to. And yes, there were a couple dancing at the launch party, although one chap looked rather like he’d dropped a lit cigarette down his trousers. But at least he was definitely a-moving and a-shaking.”
From next month, Sharp-Dressed Man Kidby and his band will play on the middle Wednesday of each month at The Apollo. (One thing – if you fancy seeing him, make sure you don’t go to Hammersmith’s version of the Apollo by mistake.) Kidby’s band is also playing at the Marylebone Fair in June.
As for being a pub landlord, is it really All Right Now?
“Oh yes, I’m normally behind the bar most days,” admits Kidby. “I’ve now got a real sense of belonging. The place feels like home. In fact I don’t think I’ve been home since November.”
And that Stray Cat Strut may just continue for the foreseeable future. As Kidby reveals, a friend at rival property developer Prestbury has just bought nine nightclubs.
“We’re working on our Bee Gees covers right now,” he warns.