An Irish landlord famous for serving a host of celebrities on TFI Friday is calling it a day after 51-years in the pub trade.
To millions, Andrew Carey is still the barman whose Friday night exchanges with Chris Evans became part of television landscape through the late 1990s.
But the Kildare man couldn’t have imagined such a glamorous rise when he landed in London’s Euston Station in 1961, with only loose change in his pocket and the promise of bar work.
Since, Carey has been granted the freedom of the City of London, an honour bestowed for his work supporting Marie Curie, the charitable organisation. Remaining true to his roots, he has backed GAA clubs like Glen Rovers and Kilburn Gaels and chaired the capital’s Kildare Association.
All the while he has been running the Haverstock Arms beside his wife Colette, who only visited the pub for one weekend 26-years ago. The rest she said is history.
But facing into retirement Carey admits the history made on TFI Friday remains his calling card.
“People still say it to me now,” he said from a seat at the back of the pub. “It was a wonderful time, a fantastic time. Chris Evans came down from Warrington. He lived around the corner from here. There were quite a few celebrities drinking in the Haverstock then.
“He used to be ear-wigging at the bar from actors like Ronnie Frasier, and writing down ideas. Chris came up with name TFI Friday and started putting it together. In here one Saturday morning with Danny Baker, he said to me: ‘Andrew I’ve got it. We’ve done it. But there’s one problem.’
“I said: ‘what’s that Chris.’ He said: ‘I’m going to need a barman’. I said: ‘No problem Chris.’ Five years later we were still doing the show.”
The programme developed cult status and Carey was always present, though not always with the right lines.
“I was notorious for getting them wrong,” he said: “Chris preferred it when I messed them up I think. It used to annoy me, but he always said it was good for the show. In the end, I did more shows than Chris. I was there for the last six.”
Those Friday nights were an exciting blend of celebrity introductions and lots of laughter.
Carey met too many Stars to mention and jokes: “They had the pleasure of meeting me.” So the wall in the Haverstock is a wandering fresco featuring Carey beside faces like Roy Keane, Evans, Robert Kennedy Jnr, Chris Moyles, John Culshaw, Ronnie Frasier, the Republic of Ireland soccer team, Barbara Windsor, Melinda Messenger, Michael Hutchinson and more.
It was little surprise that overspill from TFI Friday dripped into the Haverstock Arms.
Carey recalls: “I remember the Gallagher brothers from Oasis passing by one night. They heard music and came in. Someone handed one of them a guitar and next thing they were up and playing.”
There was also the pensioner’s dinners he ran at Christmas for up to 100 patrons from the local community; Colette looking after the food, Andrew taking care of the drink, Chris Evans out front serving!
When Carey ran a benefit night in the Emirates for Marie Curie, Chaz and Dave turned up and did the cabaret. They raised £31,000 for the charity.
Energy spilled out of the Haverstock and into other projects, but the pub remained steady and immovable until now.
At “a young 68,” Carey has decided to call it a day. It’s the right time to let the curtain drop on a great journey. The pub game is changing and this veteran of the industry has no desire to change with it.
“Gastro pubs and sports bars are what are doing well now,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve had 21 pubs close in Hampstead, Belsize and Kentish Town. In the last 15-years the Government have put 95 per cent duty on drink and the price supermarkets are charging, I can’t even buy it from the brewery for that. It’s sad for publicans and the trade.”
Carey says he is going to miss it, but he will be busy filling his time with trips to the family villa in Spain “touring at my leisure” and spending time with his children.
There’s also the retirement doo to plan. He says it’s going to be one hell of a send-off.
“I’m sure the police will be down to complain about the noise,” he said. “If they do, I’ll go outside show the Constables my licence, show them there’s seven years left on it and tell them they can have it,” he laughed.
Campaign group Camra said 12 pubs a week are closing due to crippling beer taxes.