So we are edging closer to the arrival of a new pub (or at least a re-opened one) in the centre of Lewisham. Several months after Sheridan Pubs Ltd, announced that they had purchased the freehold on The Market Tavern/Quaggy Duck on Lewisham High Street for £2m, it looks like the pub will re-open in the coming months. By all accounts the pub is being re-vamped in collaboration with Antic London, who I presume will be responsible for running the pub.
On paper this should be a welcome addition to the ‘sham, as it has to be said that currently the pubs in central Lewisham are not something to set your heart a flutter. In fact, I can’t really think of a pub that you’d ever travel out of your way to visit. And here I mean no offence to Dylans, The Fox & Firkin, The Watch House, The Anchor, or The White Horse; I’ve drank in you all and still do from time to time, but you have to admit you’re not exactly top of most people’s must visit establishments. You’re more Hobson’s choice drinking options.
If Lewisham is going the way of trying to get a young trendy set to take up residence (and all the building going on, esp around the ‘Lewisham Gateway’ project shows this is a clear aim) then we need to be some opening places to encourage these potential new residents (as well as a current ones) to be spending their money locally rather than just using Lewisham as a stepping stone to spend their money in the city or Brockley, Greenwich, Peckham and Blackheath.
The second year of the Model Market has clearly demonstrated that not only does this audience exist, it is also willing to spend its money locally if you give them a reason to do so. Not only that but people have traveled TO Lewisham to visit the Model Market. There is money to be made. The Model Market has also shown that a lot of people who are bit older and just don’t feel catered for by an average Lewisham boozer will also come out and spend money on ‘trendy’ food and drink if you give them somewhere to do it too.
Now I grew up in pubs, and I still generally like ‘Pubs’, rather than ‘Bars’, and have no desire to see the gentrification of all of Lewisham’s pubs just for the sake of it, but you can make pubs appealing and inviting without alienating your traditional regulars. In general, pubs are still closing rather than opening and it’s because not enough people are going to them often enough. You have to give people a reason for wanting to come to you, just being there is no longer enough. The examples of The Station Hotel in Hither Green, and The Lord Northbrook in Lee are both fine examples of this over recent years. Pubs that were dying on their feet and places that not even desperate locals wanted to visit are now both popular and thriving establishments with a varied clientele. If you want a future you can’t be stuck in the past.
Back with the Market Tavern. I have no idea if this will be a great pub, or a ‘go-to’ pub or not. Time, will tell. But there are reasons to be optimistic not least the presence of Antic. Antic already have quite a strong presence in and around the Lewisham area, Jam Circus (Brockley), Catford Constitutional Club (Catford). So they know the market. In fact, they also run The Ravensbourne Arms, a pub I left off my initial Lewisham pubs list. I left it and the Jolly Farmers – both also on Lewisham High Street – off the list because in some ways they are off the radar. They are stuck in limbo between the centre of Lewisham and Catford, just down from the Hospital. Both are pubs which would at least double their clientele and takings if they were moved nearer the centre of either Lewisham or Catford. Personally I like them both. But part of me would be worried for the Ravensbourne, and whether a newer more central Antic offering might take business away from it. I hope not, but it is a concern.
Generally, I’d still like more pub/bar options in Lewisham. I’d like to be able to go out for the night in Lewisham and be able to do a mini pub crawl of interesting and quality pubs/bars, and also have an equally good choice of places to eat. We are not there yet (despite some fine eating establishments on Lee High Road) but maybe it’ll come? So let’s look ahead. Why not a Brewdog Lewisham or a Craft Beer Co , Lewisham or a Meantime Lewisham opening up next? I’d raise a glass, or two, to that