We preferred the strip club to the hipster bars, say East End neighbours

Shoreditch residents oppose licence for fashionable new restaurant, say when the venue was an old-style strip pub, it didn't add to the growing problem of 'vomiting and vile behaviour' associated with trendier venues

Adam Lusher
Friday 12 May 2017 19:53 BST
Stacey Clare, seen here performing on the White Horse's closing night, told The Independent: 'Some of the old timers, fellas who had been going there since the year dot, felt a real sense of loss about it'
Stacey Clare, seen here performing on the White Horse's closing night, told The Independent: 'Some of the old timers, fellas who had been going there since the year dot, felt a real sense of loss about it' (Getty Images)

It was, they said, “the last of the decent East End pubs”.

With proper, decent, honest-to-goodness stripping: pound coin in a pint pot, lady gets her kit off – none of the “hustle, hustle, hustle” you get in those flash new lapdancing private dancing places.

No. For decades, the White Horse in Shoreditch High Street had offered strip shows in the finest theatrical traditions of the Great Bard Shakespeare himself. (Seriously – keep reading and you’ll see why. All will be revealed, as they used to say there.)

When the pub closed because of rising rents last August, the East London Strippers Collective (ELSC) protested with an “RIP Shoreditch”, New Orleans-style funeral procession.

“It feels like Shoreditch is finished,” warned Edie Lamort, ELSC member and White Horse favourite, as she bemoaned the replacement of the old East End traditions with those of the hipster. “You can have a craft lager and an artisanal sandwich and that’s it.”

The White Horse, she added, was “the last of the decent East End pubs”, run by a landlady who looked after “the girls” and made the men behave, or get out.

“Shakespeare set up his first theatre in Curtain Road away from the rules and regulations of the city so people could have a bit of mischief,” explained Edie. “That’s what Shoreditch has always been.

“Some might think that it’s a good idea to clear an area of vice, but it’s part of the history and traditional culture of the area.”

And lo, it has come to pass.

The strippers and their traditions have left the White Horse, but the hipsters have stayed and grown more numerous.

And, according to some locals, the “madness” affecting Shoreditch has grown out of control, with its hipster reputation, bars and nightclubs attracting ever more drunk and disorderly behaviour,

The allegations surfaced on Thursday, when Hackney Council’s licensing committee approved a late licence for the White Horse’s fashionable new owner, Super 8 Restaurants – purveyors of food with “high quality ingredients from small producers”.

“It is time to reign in some of the madness that has caused so many problems in Shoreditch over the past decade,” wrote one local resident, imploring councillors to refuse the licence. “This address is located next to some of London’s busiest bars. The area surrounding the site is often an open-air club, with violence, vomiting, urination, defecation, drug use and unsociable conduct late into the night.

“Shoreditch is overwhelmed with inebriated and unsociable people. Evenings attract violence, illicit acts and vile behaviour.”

“The area has become very unwelcoming for families to come to,” stated another objection.

“A late licence right on the High Street,” insisted another resident, “Would add to this overwhelming problem.”

The Shoreditch Community Association agreed.

It didn’t quite go as far as requesting vice back in, hipsters out, but there did seem to be a certain nostalgia in the way the community association phrased its objections.

The closure of the White Horse, stated the association, “Brought some well needed rest to a very busy corner”.

That said, though: “Regardless of one’s view on the nature of its business, we can say it caused little nuisance to local residents in recent years. This was almost certainly because of the very specific restrictions on an adult entertainment venue, such as significant door presence and blacked-out windows.”

And if you take a trip down memory lane, via the internet, you can still see the affection in which the old White Horse was held by some local residents. There seemed little fear of violence and vile behaviour back then.

“Should you be male or female,” wrote one woman on the Spitalfields Life website in 2011, “The White Horse is a safe place to meet friends and enjoy a drink together with the entertainment.

Spitalfield Life’s reviewer was certainly charmed.

He wrote: “It is a place in which City workers and constructions workers rub shoulders, all mesmerised by the astounding balletics of the pole dancers at this celebrated East End strip pub where – unusually for such an establishment – women are welcome too.”

And, he said, no-one was more at home than landlady Sue Bristow, “the presiding goddess in a little black dress.”

“I’ve been watching the dancers since I was 14,” she told Spitalfields Life, “So I know who’s a good dancer.”

And should anyone contemplate violence or vile behaviour, the doormen warned: “If it kicks off, it’s not the customers you have to look out for, it’s Sue!”

“It was one of the best places to work in, a family business with some of the least exploited women in the industry,” Stacey Clare, co-founder of the East London Strippers Collective, told The Independent. “Some of the old timers, fellas who had been going there since the year dot, felt a real sense of loss about it."

Ms Clare, who performed on the White Horse's closing night, didn’t, however, blame the hipsters for the loss of an East End institution.

“It’s not the hipsters as consumers who are the problem,” she said. “It’s the corporate machine in Shoreditch, looking for the biggest profit margins, which are in food, burgers and coffee.

In its application, Super 8 Restaurants, co-founded by chefs Brian Hannon and Benjamin Chapman in 2014, said it was “a high quality operator” whose other eateries included the Kiln and the Smoking Goat in Soho. The Shoreditch restaurant would continue the company’s focus on “high quality ingredients from small producers” that had garnered “outstanding praise for quality and innovation”.

And everything would be done to minimise anti-social behaviour. “Clear signage” would tell diners to leave quietly at the end of the night. CCTV cameras would be installed. A written “dispersal policy” would be maintained.

Hackney councillors, though, did not give the company everything it asked for. The restaurant would only be allowed to stay open until 1.30am on Thursday to Saturday, not Monday to Saturday as requested.

Councillors also insisted on the restaurant installing a sound limiter and said that after midnight, you would need to order some food if you wanted a drink.

In its application, Super 8 Restaurants also confirmed that when the White Horse re-opened, there would be no adult entertainment on offer.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in