Friday, April 2, 2010

Another bookies on the high street

The Deptford Arms RIP

The Deptford Arms is closing. Some may not mourn its loss. It was a problem for the local residents with late night noise and has been a bit smelly for me since the smoking ban. A favourite among the market traders (being the only pub at this end of the high street) and all too popular with the Ladbrokes clientele – a free drink with a winning betting slip and a three hour Happy Hour – it had also built up a reputation as a venue for music for the indie crowd. Most importantly, it is/was the second to last pub in the high street, the others went long ago.

The story is shrouded in mystery. The owner attempted only a short while ago to obtain a license to run a poker club in the basement. He was turned down. The pub also hit the local headlines recently when the police raided it on a tip off that it was full of underage drinkers. However, it did not lose its license as a result. Perhaps because it was known that the pub's days were numbered since, shock horror, it has been sold to Paddy Power.

Paddy Power

The ignomiously named (by my reckoning) Paddy Power is a betting conglomerate. Although it is quite obvious the high street doesn't need another betting office there's apparently nothing anyone can do about it. The building probably has planning permission A1 (retail), A2 (financial services which can include bookies) A3 (restaurant/cafe). Doesn't it need a gambling license from Lewisham Council you may ask? If they can refuse the previous owner his poker bunker, how can they allow a bookmaker in the same premises?

The problem is the same throughout the country. Diane Abbot is currently petitioning to stop Paddy Power opening the ninth betting shop on Mare Street Hackney. She is hoping to get the 2005 Gambling Act tightened up. "Hackney has high levels of unemployment and poverty, and betting shops are a temptation to make money quick. They also attract crime and anti-social behaviour...without offering any benefit in return."

Dole day must be every day for the bookmaker, as it always was, but we're not talking time-honoured profession here, we're not talking horses and dogs and football. You could be forgiven for wondering how much money a bookmaker can take out of an area that doesn't really have a lot to start with...but it looks to me like a straight route from tax payer to Paddy Power, via the government.

However, Paddy Power's enormous (stock market quoted) profits must now come mostly from online betting – betting on anything and everything. Think of a bet and Paddy Power (or Ladbrokes) will have odds. They gave great odds that Obama wouldn't get in and fuelled already growing fears he'd be shot before he got there.

Reginald Road SE8

I had a quick look at Lewisham's Licensing procedures. Appeals against applications can only be made by those living in close proximity to the premises. The surrounding community doesn't get a look in, which is why it was easy for Jennings (now Coral) to take over Hales Gallery, despite forceful petitions from residents in Reginald Road in particular.

With frequent scenes of public disorder around Ladbrokes, this end of Reginald Road is already Punter's Path – amusing in a Shameless – or even Shakespearian – sort of way, or highly intimidating, depending on the thickness of your skin. Rumours and actual sightings of drug dealing and pimping abound with not a warden or copper in sight (except when some gang tried to rob Ladbrokes with guns last year).

Lots of people like a punt. One of my neighbours is a frequent shopper at Ladbrokes. He often doubles his income with what might be called a shrewd investment. I assume he has it under control and he is lucky to live where he does. Some of us might extend sympathy to those without homes and nowhere else to go to get warm during the day or evening – these bookies stay open very late. There are two charity or church run day centres to my knowledge (correct me if I'm wrong), and bookies provide an alternative in the absence of any other initiative.

There is the possibility of our council changing colour from red to green and yellow in the upcoming elections. Deptford & New Cross might have the first Green MP in the country (if we could be bothered to vote). Darren Johnson, the Green Party candidate for parliament in our ward is a councillor serving on the Licensing Committee. It would be interesting to hear what he has to say, if anything, about Licensing. Lewisham People Before Profit (Mayoral candidate John Hamilton) have at least taken a firm interest in the future of the high street. Early days...

I was hoping to get more confirmation before posting about this, since Deptford Arms staff have either been reticent in giving information or simply don't know, and neither the previous owner nor Paddy Power will talk to the press.

However, great minds think alike, and the Deptford Dame has also been digging in her own inimitable way and has posted today with more information, especially in reference to the high street being a conservation area. Thanks Dame!

Postscript: Green Councillor Mike Keogh wrote to say that "Darren Johnson and all others on the Licensing Committe have their hands tied regarding Betting Shops, since if they refuse, the gambling bosses just appeal, and Lewisham loses lots of money in costs."

He directed me to the Green Ladywell blogspot here, which had links to Brockley Central here, regarding a campaign against a new bookies in 2008 that featured on BBC Breakfast News where the debate centred on the 2005 Gambling Act. Brockley campaigner Glenda Rodgers said then, "Our case has set a precedent for Britain where Councils will be afraid not to grant a licence because they don't have enough money to lose an appeal to their decision in court. Residents should keep an eye out for Change of Use signs for Commercial Premises from A1 to A2. It's good to write in opposing A2 use if you do not wish to have a betting shop on that site. A2 includes banks, real estate agents and bookies amongst a few other things."


  1. According to the planning application the applicant (Paddy Power) is not the owner of the property. The owner is listed at an address in Brockley.

  2. The owner is Declan O'Brien who used to have the Centurian...perhaps the sale is dependent on the planning application?

  3. Another thought: Paddy Power is buying the lease, rather than the building?

  4. Planning Permission refused...