Ethiopian restaurant 'wrongly' accused of gentrification after re-branding as American sports bar

'People don't realise that we're actually from Brixton'

Jess Staufenberg
Wednesday 16 March 2016 16:13
The Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurant has been since re-branded by its owner as a sports bar
The Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurant has been since re-branded by its owner as a sports bar

Bosses who decided to rebrand an Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurant in Brixton to become an American-themed sports bar say it has been wrongly "attacked" as an example of gentrification.

Despite retaining the same Afghan owner and all staff being from Brixton, managers at the yet-to-reopen venue say they have been accused of "bringing over white American culture" to the south London area.

Having been run as Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant Dhalak for 15 years, it is due to be relaunched as BXT Frat House.

Luke Spencer, creative director at the bar, said a number of critical comments had been made on the business' Facebook page.

"We're local staff and local owners getting attacked for doing something new with the same space," he said.

"People don't realise we're actually from Brixton."

He said some critics thought the place had new American owners who the saw as emblematic of the ongoing gentrification of the area, a process which local traders say has priced them out of premises.

"One comment we had is that we've taken everything that's wrong with white Americans and brought it over here," said Mr Spencer.

"People don't realise that none of us are actually white."

He said the owner of Dhalak wanted to expand the nightbar side of the restaurant - which often held music events - and settled on the idea of a sports bar because of a lack of similar venues in the area.

It will now feature "cheerleaders" - or waiters in sports-themed dress - football tables and screens showing sports events.

Staff lost their jobs when the restaurant closed and have for the large part been replaced with people from the area, he added.

"Because we're on Brixton Road, everyone's jumped on it and said we're changing Brixton," said Mr Spencer.

The gentrification of Brixton has long been a contentious issue in the Lambeth borough.

Studies show that people living in the bottom 10 per cent in terms of relative deprivation are being pushed out of their homes and communities due to the lack of affordable housing across the country.

Network Rail has been the most recent focus of anger at local independent traders being priced out

Protests have taken place in Camden, Brixton, and Brick Lane over the perceived lack of affordable housing caused by middle-class people buying homes in historically poorer London areas such as Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth.

Susie Barlow, marketing manager for Brixton Bid, which aims to support local businesses, said anxiety over long-standing, independent firms being priced out by global chain stores was a "shared concern".

"Sadly we see a lot of businesses who will fall by the wayside. Costs are rising and some of those businesses are really struggling," she said.

"I think Brixton's got quite a rich history and people from Brixton are very proud of the vibe that we have here.

Brixton Village

"We don't want it to lose its uniqueness and become too much like a clone of other high streets."

Brixton, which has been a multi-ethnic area since the 1940s, saw riots break out in the 1980s and '90s over a lack of job opportunities and poor police relations with the African-Carribean community.

In recent years, a focal point for anger has been Network Rail telling traders to leave the Brixton Arches beneath its train line for refurbishment, only for many traders to say rent prices had increased and that they were unable to return.

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