Hilton hotel rebrands café after complaint from anarchist group

20 April 2022 by
Hilton hotel rebrands café after complaint from anarchist group

A Hilton hotel café in London's Aldgate has been accused of "ripping off" an East London anarchist group, which has resulted in a quiet rebranding of the venue.

The Freedom Press is a British anarchist organisation and bookshop that has spent "more than 130 years advocating the destruction of bourgeois capitalism".

In a bemused yet outraged comment piece on its website it accused the Canopy by Hilton London City of "wholesale [ripping] off our name, photos and even the introduction to our history page on our own website" for the hotel's Freedom Café.

The café is located on the ground floor of the 342-bedroom hotel, which opened in October last year and is run under franchise by 4C Hotel Group.

Prior to the controversy, the café served £13 cocktails with names like ‘The Russian Anarchist' and ‘Memoirs of a revolutionist', which Freedom Press said were taken from the titles of its books.

Now, the cocktail selection features the ‘Aldgate' and the ‘Chai Fizz'. The ‘Freedom' in the Freedom Café sign has been boarded up in matte black so that it only reads ‘Café' from afar.

The hotel has also tried to delete all online traces of the Freedom Café, including the removal of its website and Instagram page, according to an article in The Times.

Speaking to The Caterer, Zosia Brom, editor of Freedom Press said: "When we found out about it a good few months after they opened, we thought it was a twisted April Fools' joke. We just absolutely couldn't believe it.

"Personally, I feel quite violated. [Freedom Press] has been run for 130 years by mostly volunteers and then you have this multi-billion-pound company just stealing [its name]. I still don't understand why they did it because it really doesn't seem like anarchism is a good theme for Hilton. It's just a very bizarre choice."

She said that there are other ways hospitality firms could align with the group's philosophy. Brom added: "Our reputation [as anarchists] is much fiercer than what we actually do and there are many projects [that combine] catering and anarchism, things like corporation tax or refugee community kitchens.

"It's possible [to make hospitality compatible with anarchism] but it's definitely not possible when someone thinks they can just steal stuff from historic bookshops and sell cocktails for £15."

Brom revealed that the group had "been in contact" with the former Freedom Café but was unable to disclose further details on their discussions.

In statement to The Caterer, Canopy by Hilton London City said: "The Canopy by Hilton brand aims to offer guests unique experiences inspired by the local neighbourhood. It was this brief that was given to a third-party consultancy group of global repute, who were charged with creating a café and bar concept with references to the locality.

"In response, the agency proposed the Freedom Café and Bar concept, inspired by the local Freedom Press Publishing House.

"Canopy London City is extremely disappointed to learn that the consultancy did not approach Freedom Press Publishing House for their consent prior to creating the food and beverage concept.

"As a result, Canopy London City have established contact with Freedom Press Publishing House with a view to finding a mutually agreeable resolution as soon as possible."

Image Credit: Jungmin Seo

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