Only in Croydon could there be a council-subsidised venue which tries to charge potential customers an entry fee so that they can get in and buy a £10 burger. Town Hall correspondent KEN LEE reports
While other bars, pubs and restaurants in the town centre come to terms with the council’s whimsical closure of the High Street, over at East Croydon Station, there’s news of more traders quitting council-subsidised Boxpark.
From an initial 40+ bars and street food outlets in October 2016, there’s now just 34 listed by the operators, as Chango Empanadas and Sweetbean have joined the exodus of businesses from the venue.
As Inside Croydon reported earlier this month, they follow MUD, an Australian brunch and coffee bar, Donde tapas bar, The Potato Project, Department of Coffee and Knot to depart the jazzed-up disused shipping containers.Boozepark opened on the long-derelict site next to the railway station 14 months ago, thanks to a £3million loan from Croydon Council and £180,000 grant towards their opening festival.
Former Boxpark tenants, who ask not to be identified (“I don’t want Roger from Boxpark coming round and telling me I have ruined his business,” they said), tend to complain about disappointing visitor numbers not providing them with the amount of business they hoped for.
Yet meanwhile, the Boxpark management is hiring security guards to restrict access to the venue, when they are flogging tickets for the latest grime or garage event to be staged there.
This week, there have been music events last night (promoting Boxpark’s own bar, BoxBar), tonight (free, but pre-booked ticket-only entry), on New Year’s Eve (from 6pm to 2am, when tickets are now £33 [UPDATE: by New Year’s Eve itself, ticket prices for the event had risen to £38]) and on bank holiday Monday (midday to 2pm; adult tickets £12.35 for this daytime rave).
Certainly, diners hoping to visit have been put off, as Boxpark turns itself into Ravepark. Inside Croydon has been receiving complaints since the summer.
“Went there to get a bite to eat and a drink,” a loyal reader said.
“The only entrance open was the station side. Tickets only. Concert inside. ‘If you go to that desk they might have some tickets’. £10 A ticket. To get in and to buy food.
“Other entrances were sealed with barriers and curtains. Which is also not so good in emergencies. The security guard suggested we visit the food stalls on the opposite side that are on the outside part. Which was hardly what we were looking for.”
Another reader has endured a similar, off-putting experience. They say that they were at the rough end of “some rather farcical mismanagement, rather than the high-end burgers we had anticipated”.
In the most recent instance, our reader wanted to get a meal at Meatliquor, probably the flagship restaurant in Boxpark. It was a Saturday afternoon – potentially one of the busiest times of the week for food and drink vendors.
“My friend and I arranged to meet at the Cronx Bar for a pint or two of Kotchin before eating. It seemed quieter than usual, lacking its usual Saturday buzz, though we put this down to the early hour. The Cronx Bar faces out on to Dingwall Road, so we headed for the entrance there, just a few metres away. It was closed off, so we walked around to the front. Here, again, all the doors were locked and a glance inside revealed a ghostly, empty venue.
“We walked around to the East Croydon Station entrance where we found some bored-looking security guards standing by some ad hoc crowd barriers. There was no crowd to go with it. We walked in and were immediately challenged and asked to submit to a search. Were they concerned we might be smuggling our own condiments into Meatliquor?
“Once searched, and found to be salt and pepper-free, we were asked for £5 each. There seemed to be some sort of party going on. The sort without many people.
“‘But, we only want to eat at Meatliquor,’ complained my friend. In lieu of an answer, the security operative pointed to a small black and white poster which said ‘Rum’n’Riddim All Day Party… 2pm to 11pm… tickets £8/£15/£20/£25’. The poster also featured a list of names of DJs, who would be providing the aforesaid ‘riddim’. BoxBar, no doubt, would be providing the rum.
“Given the prices on the poster, the £5 would have been a bargain, if, that is, we had wanted to cut some shapes on the dance floor to the likes of Shy FX, D Double E or Benny Page and Sweetie Irie. As it was, we just wanted a £10 burger with cheese and Dead Hippie sauce and without a 50per cent surcharge.
“We made our excuses and left, but not before noticing another sign, a black and white one, which had the look of having been hastily printed out in answer to the lack of customers on the day.
“It said ‘Free entry before 6pm and £5 there after [sic]. 18+ only’. We thought about challenging them on this, asking why they wanted to charge us £5 at 4pm, contrary to the rules on their own poster, but at that point a group of four had just been searched and were querying the entry fee. Another operative came over and instructed her colleague to let them in free. Perhaps they looked like they might appreciate the rum and the riddim more than we would.
“Confused by the apparently arbitrary application of entry fees, we decided to find something to eat in the unsubsidised part of Croydon that lies outside the Boxpark. This proved to be incredibly easy to do, begging the question – ‘Why do we need to subsidise the Boxpark?'”
Unfortunately, that’s a question which Jo Negrini, the council chief exec, and Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour council, have refused to answer.
In the past few days, though, Newman has been busy using his personal Twitter account to try to promote ticket sales for Boozepark’s New Year’s Eve rave.
Perhaps he’s on commission?
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