The Hollyoaks star Loui Batley has decided to open her own bar
The Hollyoaks star Loui Batley has decided to open her own bar
Published The Times July 10 2009

The soap actress and her partner have taken on a tough real-life role - leavingLiverpool to run a pub in London

Loui Batley, 22, has had an unusual four years. She gave up herdream of becoming an Olympic swimmer when she discovered that her mother hadslept with her boyfriend. Then her next boyfriend began an affair with anotherman. She hardly noticed because she was too busy delivering her 15-year-oldsister’s baby on the kitchen floor. So she took up modelling and had apassionate romance with her friend’s physics lecturer. Several other disastrousrelationships finally led her to admit that she prefers women to men. She thendecided to leave Liverpool, move to London and buy a pub.

All right, so all of that happened to Sarah Barnes, the fictionalcharacter Batley plays in Hollyoaks ,Channel Four’s TV soap — except the last bit about moving to London and buyinga pub. That didn’t happen to Sarah, but to Batley. She and her partner, SimonLawson, bought a pub recently on Earls Court Road in the leafy Kensington areaof the capital.

Batley was brought up in Rivington, Lancashire, and met Lawson, anactor and photographer, when he joined Hollyoaks for a brief spell to play the part ofa swimming pool lifeguard. The two were soon going out, then living together.

“Amazingly we have never had a row,” Batley says.

“We just seem to get on with each other,” Lawson says.

That is just as well, because their new life together seems a bigstep. “The pub was being sold by a friend, and it seemed like a greatopportunity,” Lawson says.

Buying a pub is like an extreme form of live/work, but the pairtook the plunge and moved in during May. “We thought it would all be sittingaround having drinks with friends, but the reality has been a bit different,”Batley says.

The Princess Victoria, built in 1890, sits on a corner plot andhas its back to an apartment block. The only access to the couple’sfour-bedroom flat upstairs is through the bar, so coming and going entailschats with the regulars. They have kept the two staff, who have been runningthe bar for two years, but feel duty bound to help when things get busy.Incredibly, neither had pulled a pint before buying the pub.

The move is a practical one, however. The life of an actorinvolves a great deal of uncertainty, and if you are going to have to get a barjob when you’re “resting”, it may as well be in your own bar.

“Also, the amount of space we are getting to live in is incrediblefor this neighbourhood,” Batley says.

They paid £180,000 for a 25-year lease and an extra £20,000 for the bar paraphernalia.The couple were able to look at two years’ of accounts before buying, andbusiness is slightly better than the accounts suggested. They pay a monthlyrent of about £4,400 and are required to buy beer from Scottish &Newcastle.

“It’s not a big bar, so we are never going to make a fortune, butit makes a profit and allows us to live rent free,” Lawson says. The couplealso plan to use the bar for film and fashion shoots to bring in extra money.

Lawson and Batley have been hard at work transforming the flat,including the replacement of an ageing bathroom suite. They have had parentalhelp for delicate jobs such as retiling, but they are not shy of getting outthe paint brushes themselves. “I went to work with paint in my hair once,”Batley says. “The make-up department was not pleased.”

The actress will move into the Princess Victoria full-time nextmonth and start London-based film and TV work as well as working on the pub.

“We want to put in a pizza oven and open up the street frontage,”Lawson says. “If you want to come in and have a pint, that’s great. Or come inand have a cocktail. We’d like a good mix of people.”

I was there before opening time, so I can’t vouchsafe for thebeer, but the coffee was excellent and the two chihuahuas were friendly. Thecouple’s plans for the future seem admirable. It’s hard work, but it should bea quieter life than that of Batley’s Hollyoaks alter ego.
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