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Amongst the many interesting and valuable items being exhibited over the next couple of weeks at the annual Olympia International Art and Antiques Fair is a silver serving dish commissioned by Admiral Nelson using a £500 reward that had been presented to him by Lloyds Coffee House after his 1798 victory at the Battle of the Nile.
But why would Lloyds Coffee House see fit to celebrate Nelson’s victory in Egypt over the Napoleon-led French? Lloyds Coffee House was in fact an earlier incarnation of what is now Lloyds of London. Coffee had been introduced to Europe at the end of the 17th century, and the first coffee house said to be established in the City of London was in St Michael’s Ally off Cornhill, apparently in 1652. And there were numerous coffee houses in the City during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Such places were where businessmen met, deals were done, and relationships forged. Coffee, as well as being a valuable tradable asset in itself, facilitated the business world of the London of the time. Even the New York Stock Exchange started as a coffee house. They were also the sites of cultural as well as business exchanges – frequented by poets and journalists.
Three centuries later, with WiFi and coffee shop chains, how much has changed? “Let’s meet for a coffee” is heard often as the precursor to a business deal and coffee shops have become unofficial working spaces for freelancers or office workers looking for a change of scenery. There are Starbucks sites in London that occupy the same space as an old coffee house. A London lease, whether in a towering City office block or in a small converted warehouse, will always contain as a prerequisite a “breakout” area in which staff can drink their coffee, albeit of an arguably different quality than that of Nelson’s era!
Eugene O’Sullivan, of Morgan Pryce, notes also the contribution coffee shops make to the City’s commercial property market: “We are at the stage now where one of several chains of coffee shops can be found within just a few steps, wherever you are in the capital. Such leases can provide a reliable income to the landlords and due to sheer numbers can contribute significantly to the market as a whole.”
And with prime office rents in the City topping £60 per square foot, a cappuccino may be a small price to close a deal.
Morgan Pryce is a specialist tenant acquisition agent with offices in Oxford Circus and the City. Morgan Pryce specialises in search, negotiation and project management and works exclusively for tenants.