Streets of London Pub, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary earlier this year as a Colfax Avenue punk-rock bar and restaurant, has a new owner, John Elliot. While he plans to maintain the bar as a punk dive, big changes are coming: a new stage, a new sound system and a doubling down on the bar's quest to ditch its reputation as a haven for "right-wing shitheads," he says.
Elliott is the owner of Southside Bar & Kitchen and a previous co-owner of Scruffy Murphy's; he bought Streets of London last month from Keith Winyard and Peter Ore.
“Streets is punk rock,” Elliott says. “It has always been punk rock. Streets is still going to be Streets, a punk dive. It’s just going to be improved in some ways to make it better for everybody, both the people who work there and the people coming.”
The bar, which neo-Nazi skinheads have used as a hangout in the past, reportedly saw conflicts between anti-racists and neo-Nazis at concerts as recently as three years ago. Streets of London's latest owners have attempted to shift the bar's reputation, and Elliott says he hopes to continue to make Streets of London a more open and inclusive venue.
To do so, on November 8, the venue posted the following on Facebook:
Had some questions and comments about some shit at Streets of London Pub, so thought we'd set it all straight.
Streets, as a bar and as a venue, welcomes EVERYBODY...everybody who isn't about hate, racism or bigotry, that is.
We fucking hate racists, bigots, misogynists or apologists for that kind of shit. Period. Bring that shit here - get kicked out and 86ed. Start that shit here - get kicked out and 86ed. Support that shit here - get kicked out and 86ed.
So yeah, we're ABSOLUTELY intolerant. Intolerant of Proud Boy fuckwits. Intolerant of racist shitheads. Intolerant of bonehead douchebags. Intolerant of asshole racist 'skins. Intolerant of misogynistic bullshit.
Intolerant of anyone who makes excuses for that kind of fucked up un-American shit. Streets isn't a home - or even a stopover - for ANY of that ignorant fuckery.
None of that shit is punk...it's just fucking lame and we don't want it here.
Don't like it? Too fucking bad.
Don't dig/support that kind of shit and want a place to drink, grab some killer pizza and see great shows/bands/acts where that shit isn't tolerated? Then Streets is your place. New ownership, and we've decided that the time is now to take a stand.
As for the racist skins, neo-Nazis and Proud Boy types, "I don’t have any time for that," Elliott says. "Streets has had that reputation. But realistically speaking, there hasn’t been a problem down there for years. All of us who are very much anti-Proud Boy, anti-neo-Nazi, stuff like that, we just make sure of it. If you’re a Proud Boy Nazi, you’re not welcome. Not only are you not welcome — if you show up, we’ll throw you out. And when we throw you out, that’s not a figure of speech. You’re getting thrown out of the bar.”
Elliott says the big push before the end of the year is to move the stage to the east wall and significantly upgrade the sound system.
“We're moving the stage to not only increase the area for the stage, but improve its location within the bar so that we can accommodate more people closer to the stage, getting to interact with the artists and give the artists a better place to perform,” Elliott says.
Local artist, illustrator and muralist Joshua Finley will paint a mural on the wall behind where the stage will be.
“He does a lot of the band artwork for albums and tour posters for local and national bands,” Elliott says. ‘He’s got the vibe, and he’s been a regular down there. He’s going to help us represent Streets and old-school Colfax.”
Elliott says that he’s also in the process of making subtle changes to help the workflow and the staff, like installing a new point-of-sale system and redoing the back bar.
“We’re implementing new systems behind the bar that are just going to make things a lot easier to manage and improve service for our guests, and also make life easier for our bartenders," Elliott says. "We’ve already implemented new refrigeration and new wells. We’ve essentially redone the back bar.”
Elliott says that Ore, who’s also a talent buyer at the Oriental Theater, will continue to book the national and international acts, while Elliott will book local acts. Brendan Kelly from the Lawrence Arms is slated to play later this month, while Reagan Youth headlines a New Year’s Eve bash, and U.S. Bombs and Total Chaos play in January.
Come spring, Elliott says, he’s looking at significantly improving the patio area, including the one on the west side that’s currently used by Spices Cafe.
“That back patio is actually ours,” Elliott says. "We allow Spices to use it. That belongs to Streets. We just put together preliminary plans to rebuild that back patio, create it as another outdoor space; [we] plan to put another small bar back there that can be used during shows. So somebody who’s kind of not down for the show but still wants to hang out, they have a choice of patios to use.”
Elliott adds that they’ve solidified their relationship with 3 Guys Pies, which has been long serving New York-style pizza inside Streets of London.
“We’re still going to be that gritty irreverent spot,” Elliott says. “Just because something is ‘dive bar’ and because it’s punk rock and because it’s on Colfax doesn’t mean that it needs to be shitty for everybody. Our scene deserves to have a place that they can hang out and feel comfortable and have that variety that everybody gets and have a home. And we want to be that home out here.”
This story was updated with Streets of London's Facebook post from November 8 and additional information about the history of neo-Nazis at the venue.