Since the 17th century, Pubs have been the cornerstone of communities across England. In South East London, Clement Ogbonnaya, landlord of Prince of Peckham, is trying to recreate the community pub of yesteryear, with a modern twist.
Be it a quick drink or a full knees up, the local pub was the primary source of fun for the people of the Peckham. However, in recent years the number of pubs has been in huge decline. Increased beer duty, a supermarket driven price war, and improved internet access. Just some of the contributing factors. So we popped down to South London to see the owner of Prince Of Peckham, Clement Ogbonnaya. To uncover his journey from marketing director, to running his own boozer. The importance of community and what his vision is for the future.
What were you doing prior to taking over Prince of Peckham?
I was working for a company called the Columbo Group, starting off as a promotional manager for a number of their clubs in London. The first venue we created was in Kilburn called Love and Liquor. Aimed at bringing that West End, high-class table service experience to North West London. That did really well, so I then ran another site in Kensal Green called Paradise, which is where I fell in love with the whole pub experience. I then transitioned into a marketing director role for another one of their venues in Hackney. This final place was really in preparation for the next step of running my own pub.
How did you find this whole experience?
It was a great experience and a massive learning curve, but if I’m honest it was just a means to the end goal of running my own place. I wanted to grow with the Columbo Group but reached a point where I wanted to do my own thing. It was a chapter in my Journey to getting here, so I’ve got nothing but respect for the Columbo Group. They helped me massively, even some of the stuff you see inside the pub was given to me by them.
So what made you want to run a pub in Peckham?
I’ve always been a party boy and social guy, but transitioning from that to running a business has been interesting. When you’re younger you want to run a club, as you get older you want to run a restaurant. However, a pub is a cornerstone of a community. I’m 37 and a father of one, so I always thought about what space could my entire family come to. For me, the answer was a public house that serves the community. The reason I chose Peckham was that I went to school here from 1991 to 1997. However back then it wasn’t the pretty place it is now, I remember going to school and wanting to get home. So it’s funny hearing how people talk about Peckham now as opposed to back in the day. But it’s where I spent my formative years and truthfully South East London is home, so I wanted to create that vibe for everyone in the area, past and present.
So what was the first thing you did when you officially took over the pub, any shots?
No shots unless it was seawater. I was actually on a boat in South Africa en route to Robin Island. I actually screamed, it hit me that I’d signed a 20-year lease on a pub, that I’ve never owned or ran before. But overall I was super excited and confident because I’d prepared for what was to come. So I was ready to rock n roll and couldn’t wait to get stuck in and start building the space around my ethos and core value of community.
What inspired the name “Prince of Peckham”?
The Prince of Peckham was a character from Desmonds, an 80’s comedy TV show set in a barber shop in Peckham. In the show, Desmonds was a place where people wouldn’t just go for a haircut. It was the place where the men of the community hung out. The character behind the Prince of Peckham was a proper old school lad. Boisterous and lively, one minute he’d speak cockney, the next minute Jamaican Patois. He was the man, everyone wanted to be the Prince of Peckham when they were younger. So I wanted to build a space that embodied all of these things.
How would you describe the Prince of Peckham experience in three words?
Home from home. Your home is where you feel most comfortable, and you’re definitely going to feel that here. No matter who you are and where you’re from.
So your kitchen is run by a food collective called White Men Can’t Jerk. How did you get them involved?
I’d been following them for a while, they used run pop-ups in pubs in East London. One of the places they used to operate in was owned by the company I worked for. This was in the pipeline so I said to them I’d love them to come and run my kitchen. Initially, they thought who is this guy telling us he wants to us run the kitchen of a pub in Peckham. But I sold them the vision, they believed and two years later, here we are and they’re doing amazing. Plus I loved their name, White Man Can’t Jump is one of my all-time favourite movies and I thought the name was super creative.
What is your favourite restaurant in Peckham?
The Begging Bowl.
What is your favourite pub in Peckham?
The White Horse. I love the place and they are actually doing an event for our 2-year birthday party celebrations on Friday 17th May. So a cheeky little shout out to them.
What’s your favourite drink?
It’s a bit boring but it’s got to be a gin tonic. I call it my Pat Butcher drink, or The Old Pat.
If you could have anyone dead or alive perform at Prince of Peckham, who would it be?
Fela Kuti, he was a legendary afro jazz musician, who some would argue is the greatest musician to come out of Africa. My dad will love that I said that.
If you could have anyone dead or alive drink at Prince of Peckham, who would it be?
Desmond, who was played by Norman Beaton.
If you could have anyone dead or alive working behind the bar at Prince of Peckham, who would it be?
Any final words?
We’re approaching our two-year anniversary, so have planned a week full of fun. There will be a different event every day starting on the 13th of May for the full week. Live DJ’s, great music, drinks, fun activities and company. Free entry and everyone’s welcome, really and truly it’s a way for us to say thank you for all the support we’ve had over the past two years. So join us for a party.
If you want a local London pub experience, be sure to head down to Peckham for a party fit for a Prince. Oh, and if you happen to be in London on the week of the 13th April, join the festivities as the Prince Of Peckham celebrates its second birthday.
Click here to see the full event calendar.