COFFEE BARS, upscale cafés and other millennial-targeting venues have been opening in Hackney only slightly faster than they have been failing.
You do not have to be a very sharp observer to see the wreckage of coffee bars, scenester cafés and other millennial-targeting venues around the borough.
Yet the fire of optimism burns bright and others spark into life to replace them. It has resulted in a surplus, far more bars and little eateries than the creatives of northeast London or their affluent parents can support.
Now in addition to the problems of rent squeezes, cash flow, under-skilled staff and loan repayments comes rising wholesale prices: the big unavoidable.
How does an entrepreneur deal with this, an early legacy of the EU referendum?
Loving Dalston has been asking young business people for answers. Alex Harris, co-owner of cocktail bar Behind This Wall, in the Narrow Way E8 1HY, says suppliers have warned him that liquor, beer and wine prices could go up and “for us,” he says, “that could prove tricky.
“We use very high-quality products but try to keep our prices fair, so our margins are already tiny.
“Behind This Wall is a small bar with minimal waste and this helps us to offset the difference.”
The Government has promised to indemnify multinational company Nissan against possible EU tariffs. Will the Theresa May regime even consider helping small businesses to compensate with tax breaks during the choppy switch after Brexit.
Harris says: “I don’t hold my breath and the term ‘Hard Brexit’ [no trade agreement with the European Union] scares me.
“There is a lack of clarity about how we are actually going to do this and for a business like ours that relies on ingredients from Europe and all over the world, that’s worrying.
“I would like to know if I’m going to be forced to to adopt a siege/island mentality and sell only British products which would be so counter-evolutionary.
Harris is not, however, unhopeful. He says: “So long as commercial leases don’t rise like residential ones and landlords continue to defy high-street homogenisation with bland chain brands, the area will continue to be packed with colour and a freaky sensibility.
“It’s the community that fuels this fire and if that continues to change with new what I call luxury plastic asylums – added to the economic climate’s making it harder and harder to get an idea off the ground – well, you can be defiant for only so long.”
Still they come and often with new ideas. In the tiny premises that used to be Pinch in Greenwood Road, Dalston E8 1NT, by day Leigh Crighton will cut your hair and by night Wolfgang’s Winebar will pour bottles from later this month.
The deliciously cluttered Paper Dress Vintage, above, at 352a Mare Street E8 1HR, has taken the wide-appeal route, offering drinks among the racks of vintage clothing and upstairs a tiny music venue.
At 95 Kingsland High Street E8 2PB, Dalston stalwart Dan Beaumont is opening Ray’s Bar, top, in the basement of Voodoo Ray’s, to lure customers with cocktails served in three courses to make a liquid dinner.
The coffee bar attached to the busy About the Bike at 124 Dalston Lane E8 1NG has reopened. Even a minuscule café can help in tough times.
Almost opposite is new deli Furanxo, top, on the site of the charming but customer-short teashop Velvet Marie at 85 Dalston Lane, Dalston E8 2NG, describes itself as a “Dalston bodega” before, its admits, “hamming it up” with word-plays that may not, uhm, meat with your approval.
Still, it’s super stylish, as stylish as… well, Spandeli, the Spanish deli at 246 Dalston Lane E8 1JG.
Not that nearby competition need bother a young business. In a city of pubs, the Marksman at Hackney Road E2 7SJ has won a pub of the year award.
Hang on, aren’t these awards commonplace? Not this one. It’s from France’s Michelin.
David Altheer 011116
* Top: new Spanish charcuterie Furanxo in Dalston Lane. Alex Harris portrait © AlexZalewska. All other pictures on this page © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com, and all for sale for reproduction. Most photographs are available in bigger formats
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