Clement Ogbonnaya – Why Community Has Always Been Important

Born in Nigeria and raised in south London, Clement Ogbonnaya opened the cult-followed pub Prince of Peckham in 2017 to offer everyone a pub they could feel welcome in.

He talks about the importance of community, future-proofing his business and pouring that first post-lockdown pint.

What is the ethos behind Prince of Peckham?

I’ve been in the events and party scene for a very long time. I’m a very sociable person and I enjoy going out, so Prince of Peckham was born out of wanting to open a space that was genuinely inclusive. It wasn’t anything political, just representative of my social journey. 

Pubs were never something I grew up with – the first pub I visited I fell in love with, but it didn’t represent me. It didn’t represent me as a black man, but I love pubs, the history, the buildings, what they stand for, so I committed to buying a pub and making it represent the community in which it resided.

I love pubs, the history, the buildings, what they stand for, so I committed to buying a pub and making it represent the community in which it resided.

It’s never been just a job for me: when I’m training my staff I’m always telling them to go above and beyond, to make customers feel like it’s a home from home.

You place so much importance on community and locality – what was your reaction to the focus on these two things since Covid-19?

It’s been great to see for us as we’ve been banging on about community since before we opened (for example, we’ve given out our space for free to the over 80s, helped people getting married). Community is key and I hope that this sense of togetherness continues and has not just been born in desperate time – there should be a ripple effect throughout pubs throughout the country. 

The community means even more to us now so we need to ensure that these people have a great time in our venues, and that we make them feel valued. 

Pubs should be working together in business too, and sure there is always competition in business, but I’d rather have a smaller piece of a larger pie. We’ve done events with other pubs, such as when we did the White Horse Pub Takeover where they sent us their DJ and we featured one of their drinks on our menu – the pubs that survive need to work together like this.

More and more bars have become community-led in place of their reach with tourists – do you think they can ever do the role of a pub? Or do you think they are two different offerings?

I think anywhere can be a community hub. Pubs fill that role traditionally as there is just something warm about them, whereas bars might be more about hooking up or going for a dance. I think people behind these experiences need to set the bar really. 

Coworking spaces could potentially be a great extension of this as you can still have the bar, the food and the late-night offerings alongside the co-working space, but I do think pubs will be at the forefront of that movement.

Do you think the role of pubs will change or do you think people will love them for what they always have been even more?

Prince of Peckham is a pub, but it’s also a place where you can get married, mourn the loss of a loved one, or watch the football. It’s taken on this identity of being a multifaceted experience and that’s what the pub should be – and if it isn’t already, it needs to be to survive in a local, community space.  Pubs will evolve, they have to evolve.