I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it. So said Groucho Marx. Funny guy. The club in Soho that used to be cool is called the Groucho Club. It's called that because Groucho Marx once said, "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member." It's been a haunt of journos and publishers for some years, but it's become slightly passé. So much so, in fact, that it's now a footnote in that saddo Toby Young's histoire (he's blocked me after I called him and that other charmer James Delingpole out for *hilariously * doin' bantz about raping my MP Stella Creasy). What a guy, right?
Anyway, I used to go there. I did coke in the bogs. When I used to do coke. (Quite a lot of it back then.) I got drunk. I vaguely remember having a row with Stephen Fry who was on the piano at the time. (I'm sorry, I really admire you.) I signed a book deal there. I don't have bad memories of the place, in short. In fact, I don't have many memories of the place.
But tonight, I was having dinner three doors up at 40 Dean Street with two young ladies. I popped out. I met a homeless guy. A Geordie. We chatted. For a while. About ten minutes, in fact. I wanted to give him a few quid. I only had an Ayrton Senna in me wallet. So I said, hold up, I'll get you some change.So I tried the next two places but they had cashed up and shut their tills. So I found myself outside the Groucho...
So I popped in and asked the blonde girl on reception if I could get some change from the bar. She said, "No, you can't. You're not signed in." I said, "I just want change to give to this homeless guy." She said, "No, that's not how it works." And she was obdurate and adamant.
A Canadian guy at the desk signing in was really embarrassed. He said, "I'd like to help. Here's three quid."
So I gave Geordie the three quid, plus the tenner, plus he had by now got a few quid from a Norwegian couple who had turned up.
But your blonde receptionist said to the Canadian guy, "I am so sorry that you felt hassled to give money to this guy."
WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. HELL?
Absolutely despicable and disgusting.
You are in the heart of Soho.
Do you have any idea how bad the problem of homelessness is? How many people are sleeping on the streets around there? I am literally disgusted and I really wish you would ask your receptionist to spend a few hours (paid by you) at St Barnabas @HoStBarnabas).
I also think, as a profitable business in the heart of Soho, with homelessness all around you, you really need to stop being utter twats and train your staff to stop being blasé and unfeeling idiots.
People do not choose to be homeless. Stop treating the people (literally) on your doorstep as pieces of shit. You disgust me. As you would have done Groucho Marx.
Simon Vardigans. You can do better than this. Don't be a nobber.
Since I am a fair man, I feel obliged to publish this email that I received yesterday from Glenn Pougnet, managing director of StreetSmart, a wonderful initiative that asks restaurants to add £1 to its bills to help directly the homeless. Here is what Glenn had to say...
Sorry to hear about this and completely agree with you that homelessness is not a choice and we should all understand that rather than ignoring those in trouble and certainly not treat them as second class citizens which seems to have happened in this case. However, I think you are being slightly unkind to The Groucho Club as a whole. I think it does its fair share to give back to the local community which includes having taken part in StreetSmart for over 20 years. They have been stalwart supporters and alone raised over £100,000 for the homeless. Even more valuable then the funds raised was their early endorsement of us as a charity which helped bring many other people onboard. We are indebted to them and having dealt with many of the staff past and present they always seem interested in our cause and many go out of their way to help those in need in Soho and beyond. Given the tone in your piece you have obviously detected a negative vibe but our experience has been very different.
Thanks for you email and your obvious concern for the plight of homeless people. Clearly, you are keen to make a difference and we can only applaud you for that.