Yeah, so that was a bit harder than anticipated.
As I lay paralysed in this hospital bed, I dictate these words to a pitying nurse because my shrivelled, trembling fingers are no longer capable of typing. How things can change in a few months: I think back to the blog I wrote in October and wistfully recall the exuberant, foolish young Gordon of autumn 2015. I have aged decades since our last update; my beard is grey and my voice is coarse but we have now done it: we have opened a bar in Deptford.
And it’s pretty damn big.
It started pretty close to plan: Dad and I were gonna stroll down to the place, chuck a coat of paint on, I’d grab some cheap furniture off eBay and then we’d spend the rest of the time gleefully deciding which drinks to sell. Done. We’d probably spend a tenner, knock it up over a weekend and be home to watch Match of the Day while clinking our Red Stripes aloft in triumph.
Except customers these days expect running water, so we had to go and pay for a plumber. And neither of us can wire electrics, or run a gas supply, or install a commercial ventilation system; so we had to pay for people to come in and do all of those, too. All of these things were massively tedious and worryingly expensive, when all I wanted was to just play some music and have a dance, yo. So to spare you reliving my misery we’ll just skip to the present: after three months of work we’ve gotten to the part when we can play music and have a dance. So come on down.
Despite the unexpected amount of work, we’ve managed to achieve building everything pretty much exactly as planned. It is half bar, half creative space: the space is perfect for it. After the outlay on the boring stuff, we compensated by making our tables out of the scaffolding down the street, nabbed a bunch of second-hand furniture and equipment, and took the couch from my mum’s flat. It all looks quite nice together.
We had a little preview party just before Christmas as promised, then opened the doors properly on New Year’s Eve. We’ve been slowly finding our feet since then but it’s going pretty well, Deptford has been good to us so far. Other local businesses have stopped in to voice support, Terry’s Discount store has provided us with everything useful under the sun, London Velo gave me a free coffee because I looked horrendous, and The Jobcentre Pub has bailed us out of numerous barfails already. Thanks neighbours.
For staff, we wanted to ensure that local people got a chance to apply before anyone else, so we stuck a sign on the door for a while before putting it online. As a result, the guys we’ve ended up with live minutes away, so we can happily just sack them if they ever dare show up late. We have favoured personality over experience in our recruitment, so bear with our young staff as they learn the job: they’re looking to me for guidance and I have no idea what the hell I’m doing either. But at least we’re nice people.
Slightly inept perhaps, but nice people. Bless us.
For our drinks, we also wanted to support our neighbours, and as a result we sell beers from small, independent breweries who are located close by: Brick Brewery in Peckham, Late Knights in Penge and our old family friends Brockley Brewery in…Brockley. We feel a bit dirty as we’ve had a to venture all the way to Hackney for our draught lager in the form of Crate Brewery, but it is delicious so we’ll get over it.
Also, we are Jamaican so we have Red Stripe, naturally.
We’ve also got a short but growing cocktail list, for which we are focusing on rums and Jamaican twists on classics; my mum’s ludicrously powerful rum punch which she spends hours brewing every morning; and our friend Lauren at the Deptford and New Cross Wine Club has done us a great list (they’re having their monthly meetings at our place now, so holla for tickets).
We’ve built an open kitchen, complete with jerk barbecue drum made by a local Jamaican guy called Everton (one of the Jamaicanest names ever). We have just finished getting our young kitchen staff in place, so now has begun the process of transferring Mum’s Jamaican recipes to them. The menu is lovely but short, and will expand and improve once they really get going.
THE CREATIVE SPACE
Finally, there’s the second arch. Suggestions and ideas have come flowing in since we opened, and we have some very interesting things in the pipeline from creative local people. We will launch that space in early March with an exhibition on which we are currently working with a local curator, and things will start happening regularly after that. Stay tuned. In the meantime, every weekend at least we've got DJs in there playing everything from Popcaan to Prince, so I can finally get that dance I wanted.
Overall, we’re pretty excited. We are open, we are only a few weeks old and we will get much, much better as we go on. Come have a drink. Hell, come buy us a drink, we sure as hell need it after all that. Hope to see you soon.
Gordon and the Buster Mantis team