As an A & R in the mid to late 90's I spent nearly all my life in Camden and Kentish Town. Between the Monarch and Dublin Castle and up the road to the Bull & Gate I saw many of the bands that defined the Britpop years in their formative moments. Add in The Falcon and you had the circular motion of A & R's most weeknights. It's pretty much all gone now, no George and Nicki's for pre gig food, no gathering of the clans at The Good Mixer, no Blow Up at the Laurel Tree.
The Falcon went years ago and The Monarch is no longer the jewel in the crown of London's small live venues in terms of pulling power. That pull has gradually shifted east over the last decade to Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, The Old Blue Last and, now Birthdays and the Shacklewell Arms. That's the nature of London, as the demographics and property prices shift, the scenes move with them.
So whilst to me it is sad to hear of the closure of the Bull & Gate as a live music venue it doesn't represent a failure of live music at grassroots in London. If anything there seem to be more venues in London at that level than ever. What is interesting in the statement from Fandango published in Music Week is the crack at a 'storm of free gigs' in East London. As with discussions of freeness, the increasing expectation that gigs should be free is far more dangerous than where they happen. Whilst a 'Save The Bull & Gate' campaign may have emotional pull, a more useful approach would be to win the argument that bands starting out need investment and, at a basic level, paying to watch them is a necessity.