‘I want to redefine pub culture’ says south London operator

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Expansion plans: south-London pub operator Clement Ogbonnaya hopes to open seven pubs in the capital
Expansion plans: south-London pub operator Clement Ogbonnaya hopes to open seven pubs in the capital

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Brimming with energy from the success of his first site, a south London pub operator has said he wants to open pubs that cater to every layer of the diverse communities they serve.

Clement Ogbonnaya opened his current site in March 2017, in Peckham. The pub was christened the Prince of Peckham.

He told The Morning Advertiser​: “I went to school in Peckham, grew up in south east London and my whole mission was to create an aspirational community pub that caters for every layer of the community. 

Ogbonnaya’s pub philosophy was inspired by Desmond's, a 1990's Channel 4 television show, set in a barbers shop in Peckham which was run by a couple from the Windrush generation.

He explained: “The one thing about their barber shop was that it became this hub in the community, where it didn't matter what race, what gender, what culture you were about – you could come into this space and just co-exist and everyone could just be. 

“I wanted to recreate that in pubs because as we know Peckham is all of a sudden this desirable area but I feel like all the new offerings in Peckham aren't catering for the people of the past or the people of the past have been forgotten about. 

Old and new

“I felt like I wanted to create a space that old and new Peckham could co-exist.”

The Prince of Peckham was named after a character from the show, called Lee "The Peckham Prince" Stanley, who Ogbonnaya describes as “really sharp, well dressed, energetic, charismatic”.

The site hosts unique offerings events such as a ‘Happy Monday’ discount for hospitality staff and a ‘Beat the bartender’ game where pubgoers roll a dice for drinks discount. Caribbean fusion food is served by vendors White Men Can't Jerk, who have a permanent residency. 

Change will happen

Peckham has been at the centre of discussions surrounding gentrification, with concerns residents are being priced out by white, affluent newcomers.

Change was not necessarily a bad thing, Ogbonnaya said, but pressed that it was important for businesses to cater to everyone.

He explained: “I've never been opposed to gentrification. I also think that the word ‘gentrification’ is something that has been magnified, it is a word generated by newspapers. Obviously it is real but I'm more like, ‘why be afraid of it?’ Change is going to happen. My whole thing is it's about regeneration and regeneration is when gentrification is done responsibly. 

“So I think it's obviously had an impact on my business and I think it is in a positive way. When there's a bigger spotlight on area, it's better for all involved. But I think that's exactly it – everyone needs to be involved in the change. 

“I just don't like the idea of… I mean the very definition of gentrification is to improve an area for middle class standards, which is a little bit insane. I'm just like 'yo, we can all change, we can all improve'. We just need to be informed.”

As for expanding his portfolio of sites, Ogbonnaya said he was “really aggressively trying to make that happen”.

He hopes to launch seven pubs across south London within five years and is currently hunting for his sophomore site. 

“For me the most important thing is finding the right space. south-east London is where I call home and it actually means a lot to me. This industry is like 18 hour days and if you're gonna work that many hours in a day, you might as well love what you're doing.

“Be it Prince of Peckham or Prince of Brockley or Prince of Sydenham, whatever, I want to redefine pub culture basically. I don't want every new pub just to be these new pubs that are only catering for this new wave of people.”

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