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Portobello Road

Jay

Owner, Mau Mau Bar


"The biggest reason I decided to run this bar is the mixture of people all drinking together. I think that’s the coolest thing and you never see that elsewhere. This place is really unique."

How long have you been in Portobello and what brought you here?

I’ve owned this bar for 2 years and 6 months. First of all I was living in East London, I lived there for like 10 years and I was looking for a place to start a bar out there. I was always avoiding West London because of the image of posh people and an expensive life. But then I came here and I found out it was a pretty cool area! The biggest reason I decided to run this bar is the mixture of people all drinking together. I think that’s the coolest thing and you never see that elsewhere. This place is really unique. Music is also big thing around here - everyone loves music.

So this was your first experience of Portobello?

Yes. I was a bit worried if I was going to be ok and if I was going to be “accepted” into this area, but luckily they did accept me! For example, loads of customers came when we did the refurbishment. We wanted to save some money on paintings and demolition so I told all of them we’re going to “destroy” the bar and rebuild it, and if they were up for it then to come and join us. So like 20 people took a day off and came here and just broke shit down together and painted together and that was pretty cool. I don’t think there’s anywhere else like this.

Have you seen any changes here since moving in?

It’s pretty obvious that everyone is struggling and suffering to run a business here now. Business rates are going up. But all of us are trying to help each other, stick together and try not to lose to the massive corporations. There’s another supermarket opening here now and four small shops closed just for that. It’s really sad. All the community has to get together to fight the corporations. But there is a strong community, particularly in this block.

How do you think Portobello will look in 5 years then?

I hope people realise that individual companies like us should survive and all those individual businesses deserve to be here and be a little successful. The corporations have lots of money but we do get community support from local people, the police and the council. We had so many problems two years ago but I’ve become very close to the council and they like what I’ve done. Some bars might have to close though because of noise and other problems. People have lived here for many years and only recently started complaining as they want to convert into new flats. Some places used to be able to have tables outside till late, but now they can’t in the evening. But that’s the whole thing, the culture and the vibes, we can’t lose that.

To be honest with you, I had a moment when I thought I might just get rid of the bar because of too many problems. But then I realised I had to stick with it because so many people love this bar, it is everyone’s meeting point and the only live music venue on Portobello. So I was like, ok, I have to stick to it, we have to keep the bar going… but it’s hard.