BRIGHTON’S London Road is being hailed as the city’s new Shoreditch.
Pubs are leading the revival of the once depressing corner of the city, with business people saying the area is being transformed to become more like East London hipsters’ favourite hangout.
As well as benefitting from the scheme backed by TV’s Queen of Shops Mary Portas, pictured right, to improve the area in 2012, in the past year London Road has received a glowing recommendation by communities minister Penny Mordaunt and has been entered into the Great British High Street Awards.
Now a new wave of trendsetting bars is bringing the area on in leaps and bounds.
Circus Circus, which has been at the centre of Preston Circus for decdes, has been renovated to target the urban demographic and reopened as The Joker last week.
Daniel Wright, who is behind the FunFair club and now in charge at the Joker, said that the arrival of the Alcampo Lounge in the former Blockbuster video site and refurbishment of the Hare and Hounds was already leading the gentrification of the area.
His new concept for the former Circus Circus is to create a “Shoreditch style venue” with a “devil’s disco upstairs” and food specialising in|buffalo wings and Brighton’s own Small Batch Coffee.
He said: “The audience is already here and the sales in the first few days of opening have exceeded what we expected to take for the week.
“I grew up in East London and I’ve seen how places like Shoreditch have developed and the London Road areas in Brighton feels very similar to that.
“And once again its pubs and bars that are driving it.
“There’s some really interesting stuff going on in that area and it’s starting to develop a following.
“There’s a huge amount of investment going in here and that’s a big part of why we have been so keen to put the investment in because I feel that this is becoming the place to be.
“It’s great having the cinema across the road and we do find that we get a flurry of people coming in after a film has finished. They seem really positive about the difference that has been made here since it was Circus, Circus.
“We wanted to do something with that great space upstairs and have a real contrast to what is still essentially a traditional pub downstairs. We’ve made it a venue for gigs.
“I’ve got some good contacts so I’ve been able to use those to get us some good acts – people like Smoke Fairies, who are signed to Jack White’s label. We want the sort of bands that you would expect to see at a really cool venue in East London.”
The biggest development on the road – the Co-op building – as well as providing student accommodation is set to become a JD Wetherspoons pub next year.
And whilst drinking has been the cause of many problems in the area in the past, it seems that a more refined drinking culture of the “yummy mummies” and creative middle classes is having a beneficial effect.
Where the pubs are leading the way, the whole area is following.
Several shops which have stood empty for months if not years finally have the builders in.
Gary Rayfield, manager at the Alcampo Lounge which opened in the former Blockbusters video shop in February, said business has been booming.
He said: “It has been really good for us. I’m local but the general managers for the company aren’t based in Brighton, so they weren’t really sure what sort of people would come here – whether it would be an extension of the North Laine or the town centre. But it is very much the Five Ways and Seven Dials types and people from round Preston Park.
“We get a lot of what I call yummy mummies in the day time. The thing with us is we’re a big venue so can take groups of 40 but you can also come in here and have tapas in the morning and breakfast at nine at night. You can have a cocktail at 10am and we’re one of the only places open for coffee in the evening.”
The newly renovated Open Market is also proving a popular attraction with businesses aiming to bring in the middle classes ranging from artists’ studios to artisan bakers.
Gavin George of the Laine Pub Company, which owns the World’s End. This is another London Road watering hole to have undergone a recent renovation.
He is another local businessman to have seen the change for the better.
He told The Argus: “It is good that there are great pubs. It doesn’t take our customers away – it just brings more people into this part if the city.
“We have had the World’s End for ten years and it’s had a refurbishment of the outside and a few changes inside.
“The whole area has been through a bit of gentrification or perhaps it is becoming more hipper. It’s the people who are changing more than the area itself.
“The Hare and Hounds, The Joker and Alcampo are all part of that. It is giving people a reason to come to London Road for a night out.”