Pubs are important. There is no debating that, certainly not in London. They’re the perfect place to catch up with old and new friends alike. The perfect place for a solo date out. The perfect place for when you don’t know what to eat. Pubs are so quintessential to the British way of life that any activity is followed by that one-word question: pub? As knock-on effects of lockdowns, restrictions, and closures see pub numbers across England and Wales hitting an all-time-low, one Peckham pub landlord is looking to save your local with The Village People.
The Village People? Like, The Village People?
We’re talking about The Village People, not Village People. This is not a collaboration that will find six musicians singing YMCA at pubs across London. Not explicitly, at least. The Village People is a new pub group that Clement Ogbonnaya has established. Those familiar with the name will know Ogbonnaya as the famed landlord of the iconic South London pub, Prince of Peckham. It’s his goal to ensure that every area in London has a local pub that champions their community. As such plans are in the works to open five new pubs in the next five years.
First up is a new pub in South London’s Tulse Hill, Queen of the South. The new pub will follow in the footsteps of Prince of Peckham, providing a wealth of events and opportunities for the community, with co-working space during the day as well. Expected to open later this year, they’ll be ready just in time for the World Cup festivities.
So it’s just some new pubs then?
Not at all. Ogbonnaya wants to bring old, unloved, and abandoned pubs back to life, regenerating them and turning them into inclusive community hubs. An important focus for the new pub group is to “educate … staff, customers and the wider community on local issues and challenges, as well as highlighting ways to make a positive difference”.
But to do that, they’ve got to make sure they’re actively engaging with the community. Eva Arnaiz, former Head of Inclusion and Social Impact at The Breakfast Club, has been drafted to help. It’s Arnaiz’s role to develop the Community Outreach Programme, and make sure the pub works with the local businesses and people, not operating in a vacuum.
Ogbonnaya, who grew up minutes away from the pub he would one day run, explained his thinking behind the new pub group:
“I’ve worked in hospitality for 13 years and I’ve seen how the industry has changed throughout this time, both for the better and for the worse. While people are searching for a sense of belonging and community now more than ever, many British boozers have gone from being area hubs to laying empty and derelict, which is a tragedy. I think there’s a massive opportunity to rejuvenate the pub scene and bring them back to the heart of the community.”
Keep up to date with Queen of the South’s rehaul and opening through their socials and at their website. Head to Prince of Peckham’s website and socials to find out about their events, then head on down to find out what a community-oriented pub is all about.