Give us the night

A long-time ago, we interviewed Liam Hickey from Greater London Enterprise about the best ways to create a thriving high street economy in Brockley.  

GLE was appointed by Lewisham and Southwark to provide advice to businesses in the boroughs, to help encourage more local employment. He talked about a range of issues, from loyalty schemes to winning procurement contracts, which we plan to cover in more detail one of these days, but he also made an interesting point about the importance of late night business to successful high streets.

He compared Peckham with Brixton and argued that the real difference between them was that Brixton had been very successful in developing a thriving night time economy of bars, clubs and restaurants, whereas Peckham hadn’t (obviously tube links make a big difference). He suggested that Brixton’s night time economy had a major trickle-down benefit for the rest of the businesses operating locally – from pubs and cafes that cater for early arrivals to shops and suppliers that cater for those businesses. Late nights extend the money-making window for local high streets and bring in new customers to the area.

Without a late night offer, he suggested, areas like Peckham, Lewisham or even Brockley are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs as the UK's night economy has grown at 30% over the last decade.

Brockley only has a few night-time venues: a handful of restaurants, a theatre, a ballroom and a scattering of pubs and bars. Crofton Park has about the right balance, but as we’ve mentioned before, when The Orchard’s full and you’ve had your fill of the Barge, it’s a long walk from Brockley Station to find somewhere to hang out, unless you fancy a quiet night in the Essence of India. 

With the arrival of a new restaurant next month and the potential to create space for a bar at 180 Brockley Road, we could be on the verge of building a decent little night time economy in Brockley for the first time, with businesses like Gulen getting in on the action too.

Late night Brockley won't just make the area more fun, but also more successful.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Peckham is evolving a good nightlife scene - it has a handful of great bars, and the Bussey Building, for starters. Ok it's not quite on the same level as Brixton, but it's getting better.

Brockley Nick said...

Agreed.

Anonymous said...

"when The Orchard’s full and you’ve had your fill of the Barge, it’s a long walk from Brockley Station to find somewhere to hang out"

The Wickham? (Or Top Chef)... but you said a 'long' walk?

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, it's a long-enough walk to the Wickham to stop it becoming a coherent scene - with people casually popping from one place to another.

Anonymous said...

0.3 miles?! Christ alive, no wonder we have an obesity epidemic. I think looking at Peckham for inspiration may be setting our sights too high with that sort of attitude.

Brockley Nick said...

I'm going to assume you're not just being a troll, so here goes.

Of course it's possible to walk there or to New Cross for that matter - quite quick and easy. But I am talking about our high street and the point about high street businesses is that they are next to each other.

Anonymous said...

I thought Browns was going to start opening late, does anyone know what happened with that?

Smiggy said...

Last ~August I went into Browns with some friends on a Thursday night for some very delicious cheese & wine in their basement.... but it doesn't seem to happen any more?

Crofton Park Ranger said...

Brockley definitely has the demographic to support more local nightlife - you just have to look at the young professionals pouring off the trains and the busyness of the few available watering holes.

I use Crofton Park, Honor Oak Park and brockley Stations (depending on circumstances) and I could be wrong but there seems to be a noticeable difference between Crofton Park and Honor Oak Park commuters who seem to be a little older and with more families (+pretty much all houses locally rather than flats), whereas Brockley station seems to have a younger feel. Not sure how accurate/representative my observations are but hey ho.

Really looking forward to the launch of the Toads Mouth Too version 2.0 (or The Toads Mouth tu-tu as i have just decided I will call it until the official reveal of the new name).

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, they don't do regular nights any more, in spite of their popularity, but I think they do do parties. Brockley Ben can confirm that one!

Brockley Ben said...

They (Browns) did it for a while but couldn't justify it every night in the end. Even the Thursday night pizzas didn't quite pull in enough of a crowd as winter drew in. I gather they're keen to give it another go, though, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them opening up again in the summer.

Brockley Nick said...

@CPR - I get the same feeling. Would love to have the stats...

Brockley Nick said...

@BB - actually Browns is probably a good example. If there were one or two other places for people to go on to, to make it more of a night out, it would probably have knock-on benefits for the popularity of those nights.

Anonymous said...

And yes, they will do a private party if you ask them nicely. I did and it was great fun. Pizzas cooked out of a van mysteriously parked over the road. Wines and simple cocktails flowing freely. Even a couple of cakes baked especially for us. Couldn't have been better.

If we'd been colder or more numerous I'm sure we'd have also used the cosy downstairs bit, but for about 30 of us upstairs plus a smoker's bench was perfect.

B said...

(That last anon was me, by the way. Oops.)

Anonymous said...

My hommies and I would surely get a few rounds of flirtinis in post repas at a late bar if BX had one.

Brockley Ben said...

(Or even me. I'm having a shocker.)

Ben said...

Has anyone been to Gulens?

Lack of space and large pubs at BX means 180 Brockley Road MUST become a large late night bar/restaurant. Pretty please!

Not sure BX has the commercial buildings to make it cool...

Ben said...

That or someone airlifts the Wickham and drops in in BX.

How have the property prices gone so high with such a lame choice of nightlife?

Ben said...

Even a chain restaurant would be cool at 180 Brockley Road...

CPR said...

Browns twittervertised a Burger/Beer night last Thursday i think.

Brockley Nick said...

"Lack of space and large pubs at BX means 180 Brockley Road MUST become a large late night bar/restaurant. Pretty please!"

I suspect that the Council would be happy with / prefer that space to be entirely retail. They still have a (misguided) view of Brockley High Street as being mainly for retail rather than leisure. The developers would probably be happy with retail too, since easier to sell flats above a shop than a bar.

I think best-case scenario for 180 Brockley Road is mostly retail / salon space with maybe one bar.

Don't forget, there's also La Lanterna, which will one day be taken over and someone will do something good with it.

CPR said...

If I close my eyes and turn the heating up I can almost picture it now...

A summer day some day soon where we tumble from the train to a pedestrianised pavement with a babble of rabble supping ice cold beer.

Brockley Nick said...

It's a beautiful dream CPR. Although a pity that in dreaming that dream, we reveal our hate for Brockley and our secret desire to turn it in to ED.

Anonymous said...

There's a thriving night time economy on Upper Brockley Rd, but until they start selling houmous the mungs won't be interested.

Brockley Nick said...

nice one

Ben said...

Used to love drinking al fresco outside Moonbow Jakes back in the day, a BX equivalent would only be a good thing, that al fresco bit in front of the Barge just doesn't cut the mustard.

The council should triple the rates for the owners of La Laterna, idle prime leisure space!

CPR said...

@Nick

Whoa there! It was a dream not a nightmare ;-)

Having a drink in the sun on a pedestrianised pavement does not make Brockley suddenly become East Dulwich! The people drinking on that dreamtime pavement would be good honest Brockley Badgers through and through, not those Dull Witches of the East...

My dream was a simple one, a dream of Brockley, just with added beer.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the problem lie in a) getting abandoned spaces brought into decent condition and b) the council supporting more pop-ups, so that bars can reside in these kinds of places, at least on a temporary basis?

We have a decent enough mix of arty students and young pros to sustain more night-time entertainment (in fact, it's precisely that kind of mix that means places like Brixton/Shoreditch/Dalston have a decent amount of nightlife), but something needs to be done to make otherwise abandoned space more affordable and attractive.

Toes Ask/Ask Toes is a case in point. Decent location to at least have some kind of temporary bar, but it looks to be in an awful state and no amount of pestering National Rail gets you any closer to discovering who or what is responsible for the upkeep of the place. (Yes, I've tried...).

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, and what's happening with Gulen exactly?

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - all good points.

@CPR - you and I both know that.

CPR said...

PS Sorry to get so territorial.

I've never actually been to East Dulwich. I'm sure the good folk of the area aren't dull... or witches.

Anonymous said...

I've really gone off the Orchard. Bad service and poor value for money. But as there's so few options it's always packed out. Hopefully the new Toad will provide better competition.

Anonymous said...

I think Gulen's should be renamed the Brockley Badger, Brock being a medieval word for a badger.

DJ said...

Mung-bores! This ^ is how to do a running gag well. Take note.

Smiggy said...

Brock, indeed! A love for badgers is actually what brought me to this fine suburb.....

http://i.imgur.com/s5wXi.jpg

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
THNick said...

Then it would be called "badger badger".

Hmm, badger, badger badger, badger:
http://weebls-stuff.com/songs/badgers/

Anonymous said...

I would love to see some concerted effort from the council to focus on empty commercial property. There are SO many vacant or under-used bits of commercial/retail space around Brockley, which really could offer exciting new business opportunities - the landlords just don't seem interested in doing anything with them! It's so frustrating. And when a good-quality space does come onto the market, it gets snapped up - like the Orchard's spot, and when Magi moved and the Broca expanded. And Toads Mouth Too getting passed on to enthusiastic new owners.
Other local landlords could really learn from that.

Brockley Nick said...

"Other local landlords could really learn from that."

Yes, although sometimes it seems like they are trying really, really hard not to learn anything.

Anonymous said...

Quite. Who are these landlords, anyway? Do they live locally? How can the local community engage with them and try to persuade them to invest a bit of money into improving their properties and marketing them to potential businesses? This is all stuff the council could and should find out and take action on.

Brockley Nick said...

Who the landlords are and how to reach them is often hard to get to the bottom of. The only thing that will influence some of them (in my view) is proof of concept, which is why the shoe shop is actually really important. It's a foothold in the high street for a business that imagines that parade can be a bit more ambitious. Combined with the new TM2 it might prove to La Lanterna's landlords that it's time to sell up and let someone have a go with it.

La Lanterna is not technically on the market, but the estate agents that represent the other Biageo properties say that they might be open to offers.

Anonymous said...

Hi, sorry to use my first post to ask a question that doubtlessly must have been answered hundreds of times on this blog elsewhere, but why is Crofton Park not considered part of Brockley?

Coming from that side [CP], I see Brockley as three separate clusters of high street, supported by residential areas, and would definitely consider, say, the Orchard/Brockley Mess/ Jam Circus as being part of the same area. Moreover, I don’t consider the prospect of eating/drinking at any of the above logistically onerous [two bus stops for those against walking].

I used to live in Blackheath Standard, which undoubtedly has the poorer high street to the village, but happily recognised that a local meal was catching a bus [again two/three stops] to another part of the same area.

Therefore just curious why going from the first stretch of high street (Brockley station) to the third (CP station) wouldn’t be considered a local night out?

Brockley Nick said...

It is considered part of Brockley because it is part of Brockley. The "three clusters" view you have is basically right although it's really four when you include Lewisham Way.

Obviously, it has its own identity as a sub-set of Brockley, with its own station (which people put a lot of emphasis on in their mental maps of London) and it would be considered a local night out (the article specifically includes CP) but Brockley's venues are spread out in small clusters along a long road, which hampers its development as a single nightlife entity.

Brockley Nick said...

And no-one I've ever met considers the Standard as an extension of Blackheath Village...

Anonymous said...

Very good! And thanks for the answer- although people at the Vanbrugh end of the heath would disagree (not me, don’t care).

For what my 8 months of thoughts on Brockley night-life are worth, the problem is not so much the absence of places to drink/eat, it is more the overall continuity of how the other shops link together. You could have more restaurants and bars but until the mean standard of shops in each parade improves, they will not attract the people beyond those immediately local to go there for evening drinks and would struggle to survive.

Firstly, take East Dulwich, it basically has as many places to go for a drink as Brockley: Cherry Tree, EDT, The Bishop, Boho Bar and Liquorish. However, it is the collective standard of the street in general that brings people to the area and consider it a place they would want to spend their evening.

Secondly, take the intersection by Deptford Bridge DLR. That also has a collection of places to drink (Birds nest, Dos Tias, The Broadway and whatever they are calling the Live Bar these days) but because the general area is still in the development stage, I suspect these establishments are overwhelmingly frequented by locals only.

I guess what I’m saying is that to capitalise on the nightlife opportunity, Brockley high street would first have to get the foundations right. Build the shops (non betting and fast food outlets) and they will come.

kolp said...

Semi related, but something I think that would be would be fun aswell as useful for this area is electric car charging points. Can our green counsellor(s) help on this ?

Anonymous said...

There's a tapas bar in Deptford?

Anonymous said...

Brockley lacks a large central thriving commercial area, it is essentially a few clusters of shops stretched along one long road broken up by houses and a massive graveyard. This is a big problem for future development potential as geography denies the parades decent footfall.

Herne Hill used to be a dump but the largish centralised town centre and big pubs were prime for regeneration.

Anonymous said...

I think the area around the station and Brockley Cross has huge potential - when you think about it there are loads of shut up shops in Brockley Cross and near the Bridge and there will be more development (where the MOT centre is and on Mantle Road) ... if some of the shops are regenerated in the cross area we could have a decent little "village" feeling ...

Brockley Nick said...

Herne Hill is the new Top Chef cafe, it seems!

Anonymous said...

Herne Hill is an excellent area.

There's only one Top Chef though.

Ben said...

Agree new development at 180, new Toads and Kids shop will make a big difference, an occupied La Laterna and general betterment of some of the shops on the parade will make even more of a difference, at the moment BX kinda sucks.

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