Ah, Streets of London. One of the places to go to get into trouble in Cap Hill back when I actually lived in Cap Hill, like hundreds of other twenty-somethings in the early 2000s, before the area's rental market largely priced out anyone under thirty without a trust fund. Back then, it was the place to play pool, get cheap drinks and hang out with a bunch of surly punk rockers.
You can still do all those things at Streets of London, but the punk rockers have a little gotten older and less surly, and according to bartender Weston Wallace, many of them — including him — have moved to the suburbs. The drinks haven't gotten cheaper, but it almost seems like they have because prices have gone up everywhere else. Streets of London is an especially good value on Tuesday nights, when the special is $2 you-call-its, one of the cheaper options around.
I dropped in with an old friend who also used to frequent Streets of London back in her younger days. We hit the bar for a drink around happy hour on a Friday, when the joint was busy with regulars who were mostly over thirty. Despite being a little older, some of the crowd rocked multi-colored hair and leather jackets, which I have to respect. Not too long after we arrived, a group of people in business-casual attire came in on what we initially thought was a weird bar crawl. However, as we observed what took place, we discovered it clearly was not. A woman in the group said, "Raise your hand for Jameson," bought the entire hand-raising group a round of shots (which nobody turned down), and then said something about getting back to work. Immediately, the whole group filed out of the bar as quickly as they came, presumably back to their office somewhere on Colfax. In my mind, I wished them good luck with whatever weird thing they were doing at work that required the whole office to stay clocked in after taking shots on a Friday night.
I shot the breeze with regulars seated along the bar and longtime bartender Wallace, who regaled me with tales of the neighborhood and the bar. He bemoaned the absence of the classic old-school jukebox that used to be a part of the bar's charm but had to be replaced with a more modern TouchTunes jukebox, which Wallace says people just use to "play shitty music from their phones." He also discussed all the different types of restaurants that had been next door or shared some part of the building with the bar, which currently houses 3 Guys Pies, a pizza spot, and Spices Cafe, a diner-type establishment that's behind the bar and makes a mean breakfast burrito. He even mentioned a very Colfax-sounding incident, during which some homeless ladies got too crazy dancing on the patio tables and a bartender accidentally maced the whole bar in the process of trying to get them to stop. Meanwhile, my friend, who is planning her wedding, befriended an older woman at the bar who offered up her old wedding dress for the big day. We thoroughly enjoyed our weird conversation with the other customers, and also managed to catch up a bit between ourselves.
After that visit, I chatted with owners Keith Wineyard and Peter Ore to get their take on the bar and the neighborhood. Although much has changed on Colfax over the years, Streets of London has really maintained the same small, independent feel. When Wineyard found it, the space was a vacant building that used to house, among other things, a part of the Pete Contos Greek bar and restaurant empire. He opened the Streets of London in 1998, the very same week that Goosetown Tavern (which I wrote about last summer) opened about a mile to the east. But there wasn't much else around for the thirsty young residents of Capitol Hill, punk rockers or not. And there weren't many English bars in town, and none actually owned by anyone English, according to Wineyard. He says he was tired of working construction and had a lot of relatives in the pub business in England, so he took a shot at opening his own, with help from some family members. The denizens of Colfax are glad he did, and that it's managed to stick around.
Wineyard brought Ore aboard as a partner last fall to keep things fresh — and keep things punk rock. Both are determined to provide a great spot for the neighborhood and avoid "selling out," as some might say. They are committed to local beers, local music and local crowds. Last year, Wineyard built a permanent stage to host primarily punk shows. Ore, who has been a concert promoter for years and also works for Soda Jerk, books various local and national acts at the pub. Although it's primarily a bar, there's a healthy schedule of shows perfect for an intimate and sweaty mosh pit, including upcoming visits from bigger-name acts like Nashville Pussy (April 12) and English punk band Conflict (June 13).
Streets of London also often hosts after-parties for punk shows at bigger venues. Other new entertainment elements at Streets, as regulars call it, are Wednesday night comedy and Thursday night skateboarding movie nights, mixed in with monthly "Dead Pop Star" nights with sets from DJ Quid on the second Thursday of the month. And if that's not enough, Wineyard and Ore, both motorcycle fans, are planning a motorcycle event when the weather warms up.
So don't forget about Streets of London the next time you want to buy your whole office shots of Jameson on the cheap, or the next time you want to rock out at a punk show, hang out with motorcycle enthusiasts, or generally avoid selling out.
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