Inc Group boss backs Greenwich Market development

I’m a bit surprised this hasn’t had more attention – Inc Group boss Frank Dowling, whose company has a strangehold on eating and drinking in Greenwich Market, has publicly backed controversial plans to build a boutique hotel in the market.

I guess it’s a bit “dog bites man”, but considering Frank rarely speaks on the record, this does at least confirm plenty of long-held suspicions.

He made the comments in an interview with the Greenwich Podcast. He told presenter Nick Baker:

“I’m very much in favour of it. Greenwich Hospital are good poeple – as a landlord, sometimes decisions aren’t easy. In the market redevelopment, that’s a corrigated plastic roof. That’s conduct unbecoming of a world heritage site. Greenwich needs 2,000 hotel rooms – the Ibis is horrible, the Novotel not much better.

“This is a Unesco world heritage site – we’re in a different type of status, and you don’t have any overnight accomodation in Greenwich. You don’t. There’s no way that Greenwich will ever became a Cambridge, an Oxford, a York, a Bath – a good market town without some good places where people can stay. You can’t see Greenwich in one day – there is a better experience if you can stay overnight in Greenwich.”

He continued:

“We need to keep on moving. This anti-progressive bloc that’s… – there’s a small amount of people with a big voice. You do get a local bloc, especially west Greenwich, and you have 20 or 30 people who have the voice of thousands. And that’s dangerous.”

He also revealed plans to turn Inc’s offices on Nelson Road into a 20-room boutique hotel in time for the Olympics, and reaffirmed his ambition to build a 150-room hotel on the site of the Trident Hall in Park Row, next to the Trafalgar Tavern.

It’s interesting listening, and if you ever spend some time in Greenwich or fret about the future of the place it’s a must-listen. For my money, I think part of what winds people up about Inc Group is its lack of respect for what came before it – it’s all very well banging on about a “world heritage site”, but if you’re going to convert a much-loved old pub into a fish and chip shop via spells as a gay bar and tiki bar, then there’s no point in complaining about an “anti-progressive bloc”.

Some of Inc’s woes are inherited – the reputation for poor service comes from the Trafalgar Tavern’s previous management, for example.

But you can fix what’s been broken – when the management of Greenwich’s leading gay pub the Gloucester decided to turn it into a mainstream pub, it killed the place stone dead. When Inc took it on, it became the Greenwich Park Bar and Grill. It’s just had another name change… maybe it’s now time to revive the Gloucester, now the gay crowd has moved to the Rose & Crown and a generation has moved on?

Nah, it’s now the Greenwich Tavern. Just in case anyone had stepped out of Greenwich Park and believed they had arrived in Bromley. (About as clever as renaming a pub The Prince of Greenwich.) Now, do you see why people worry about the likes of Inc Group turning Greenwich into a crappy tourist trap?


  1. Personally I’m quite happy with the market and the rest of Greenwich just the way it is. It may need a new hotel but it doesn’t have to be right in the middle of Greenwich. I don’t know if you have noticed but when the market sets up and packs up they make a lot of noise. Not something a hotel should be next to. The market is packed with people these days, just leave it as it is.

  2. No surprise that the two least loved groups in Greenwich should start supporting each other. These is one particularly disingenuous comment made and that is that Greenwich will never be a successful market town without a hotel. Will be even less successful without a decent market.

  3. Frank the Yank would be warmly welcomed in Charlton if he ever gets out of Greenwich. The area is absolutely desperate for a vibrant new venue.

  4. Once they finish turning the main market into a hotel and the neighbouring markets into hotel parking lots, and sanitizing the rest of the area, the tourists WILL be able to see all of Greenwich in a day, negating the need for the hotel. Developers have f*cked over Portabello & Camden. Now its time to ruin Greenwich.

  5. I do tend to agree with him on West Greenwich, but not on his policy towards the venues he owns. What Nick didn’t press him on the sameyness of all the pubs offerings.

  6. I’ve had the “pleasure” of working for Mr Frank Dowling and I find it amusing and at the same time incredibly annoying that he attacks the Ibis and Novotel hotels for being “horrible”, given the state of his grossly-overpriced, poorly-managed, sweatshop-conditioned and frankly, weird, bars and restaurants. And trust me on that, I’ve seen what lies in the rooms behind the bars that sell £4.50 pints of triple-filtered Stella and tequila shots at £5 a go!

    I can’t stand the thought of a hotel plonked right in the center of arguably the busiest part of Greenwich. Is this just so he can get some extra trade for the on-their-arse ‘Coach and Horses’ and ‘Admiral Hardy’? Perhaps if the ‘Admiral Hardy’ didn’t look like the inside of a pinball machine and the Coach and Horses actually had a few more tables inside he might actually get somewhere. Serving edible food that is about as close to michelin-starred as your local chicken shop is would be a good start as well, and not charging prices that Marco Pierre-White would probably gulp at would be a sensible though as well.

    Greenwich’s hustly-and-bustly market is already a beautiful enough spot as it is, much of Greenwich’s great heritage has already been ruined by Inc’s flavorless attempts at tacky, Western restaurants serving a frankly bizarre mixture of meals combined with stupidly expensive alcohol, no more thanks!

  7. This Frank The Yank character has destroyed the heart of Greenwich with his cheesy bars and crap eating holes. He was also responsible for closing the last decent pub “The Cricketers” and replacing it with some minimum wage grease bar which tells a lie “Fish & Chips since some date a few hundred years ago” Why should foreign money grabbers be given the go ahead to ruin our town?

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