Obiter knows any number of readers who felt trepidation at the sale of Fleet Street watering hole El Vino, traditional haunt of lawyers and journalists, to much larger wine merchant Davy’s – owner of 24 wine bars, not counting the four-strong El V mini chain.
The big question is: will anything change? Obiter’s main concern is the Fleet Street branch – the one where you might see a former lord chancellor enjoying ‘a wine’ with a hack or, on the right night, any number of QCs deftly avoiding their round. One partner from nearby Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer is often to be found with a post-work cigar and a glass of wine by the back door.
Some late luminaries have their names emblazoned on the chairs or on plaques on the wall.
El V’s last visible change was a good one – 33 years ago this November solicitor Tess Gill and journalist Anna Coote won a sex discrimination case that lifted a ban on women being served at the bar (hat-tip to Lord Justice Griffiths in the Court of Appeal for that).
But what of what readers like is threatened by sale? ‘We’re very conscious of (and love) the traditions behind El Vino’s!’ soothed the Davy’s corporate Twitter account when challenged online.
Obiter has done a little further digging. Well, the décor is mostly safe - with the exception of the toilets which require something called ‘work’ (Obiter struggles to disagree here) - and a new till is ‘needed’. The three less-historic outlying branches may lose the El V name.
But what about the, erm, ‘wine’ loyal lawyer-customers go there for? Arguably worse news here for die-hards – the El V warehouse (location unknown – yes, we tried) has stock for six months, then it’s over to the Davy’s standard range.
Griffiths LJ died in June, so is sadly unable to adjudicate any further on-site management issues. An Obiter sub-committee will be monitoring menu changes.