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New Brixton club Ton of Brix faces backlash for ties to billionaire landlord DJ

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Newly opened South London club Ton of Brix has faced backlash after it was revealed that the venue’s freehold is owned by Hondo Enterprises — the business owned by controversial propert investor Taylor McWilliams.

McWilliams – who DJs as Taylor HK and is part of tech house collective Housekeeping – is the sole director of the company, which purchased Brixton Market in 2018.

South East London raised DJ OK Williams shared her thoughts in an Instagram Story post on Wednesday (December 7), which had a background showing a news story of a contentious Hondo Enterprises plan to build a 20-storey tower in the heart of Brixton.

She alleged: “New venue in Brixton, which used to be Club 414. The owners of which were forced out and is now owned by this loser.”

Club 414 was a much-loved and historic South London club run by Tony Pommell and Louise Barron, and was started in the aftermath of the 1981 Brixton riots. It finally closed in May 2019, after a years-long battle against closure, which included a plan to turn the space into flats in 2016, as well as a failed application to reopen the venue in 2020.

Read this next: Thousands sign petition protesting Brixton Market’s billionaire landlord DJ Taylor McWilliams

Hannah TW, co-founder of club night LOCAL Brixton, who threw parties at Club 414 in the past shared her thoughts on the new club in an Instagram post. She wrote: “The 24-hour license that this venue has is because of the hard work of T and Louise who ran the club for 30 years in this space. They lived there and were evicted when their request to continue running 414 was rejected.

“The fact the building is still a venue is due to them too,” she continued. “They successfully resisted the site becoming flats in 2016, it went all the way to the high court where Lambeth were overturned.”

TW told Mixmag: “I’m happy that there’s a nightclub, and I’m really fucking sad that it’s owned by Taylor McWilliams – someone who has treated the community so awfully.”

Brixton Jamm and Percolate, who are the joint owners of Ton of Brixton, responded in a statement clarifying that they had no involvement in the closure of Club 414 — and were aware of the impact its loss had on the local community.

They wrote: “We are well aware of the importance of Club 414 to many in the area, and the legacy it leaves behind. Its closing was a huge loss for Brixton’s nightlife scene and we joined you in mourning what the owners built.

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“To be clear: we were in no way connected to their eviction,” they continued. “We are committed to honouring their legacy as an independent, grassroots music venue and maintaining this as a space for nurturing local talent.

“We have been in touch with key voices from the Brixton community throughout the process of opening this venue – their input has been invaluable and we are forever grateful for it.”

Hondo Enterprises has been accused by activists in Brixton of forcing local businesses out and contributing to “gentrification” in the area.

Hiba Ahmad, a representative of Save Nour, a local campaign that fought to protect Nour Cash and Carry – a popular and well visited business in Brixton market – after it was hit with an eviction notice by Hondo, also expressed concerns with the club’s opening and McWilliams’s impact in the local area.

Read this next: Brixton’s Club 414 faces closure and redevelopment for the third time

“We were aware that there were other works in there, because Hannah [TW] who we organise with had been very active in the Save 414 Campaign and knew the previous owners Tony and Louise and we knew that they weren’t going to be part of this new club that was opening up.”

They added: “We didn’t really know who was going to be involved – we just knew that it was going to be someone that Taylor McWilliams was going to be working with.

Ahmad said that although gentrification in Brixton is a long story and there are multiple actors, McWilliams’s purchase of Brixton Market was a key moment. “It started opening up our eyes about what was happening there, when he decided to evict Nour Cash and Carry,” she alleged.

“Since then it’s become quite clear to us that there’s an issue with how Hondo plan and manage the space. We’ve seen them push people out and we’ve seen planned evictions that shouldn’t have happened.

“First the [attempted] eviction of Nour, which is a really popular and profitable, which is one of the biggest, if not the biggest in the market – so targeting them for us meant that they were targeting the culture of the market.

“Secondly targeting Phil, an independent shop owner who a lot of people rely on for fruit and veg in the market. He was threatened with eviction as well two months ago or so.

“We understand that things change here – we are not proponents of keeping things exactly as they are. We understand that areas grow and we are happy that it’s still a club.

“Brixton always has had music, it always had places of joy and dancing and celebration,” she continued. “We just think it’s such a shame that it’s connected to this person who is continuing to cause so much harm in the neighbourhood by having this campaign to reshape it – he banks on its culture but he does not contribute to the people who created this culture.”

A statement from Ton of Brix seen by Mixmag, claims that it had been “in touch with key voices from the Brixton community throughout the process of opening the venue.” However, Ahmed says that it wasn’t until Wednesday that anyone from Percolate/Brixton Jam joint venture had reached out to Save Nour.

They told Mixmag: “We got sent a direct message yesterday [by Ton of Brix] on Instagram, and I think it was after a lot of people had started making the link and tagging them and us in comments about the space opening up and people were upset about what happened to [Club] 414.

Ton of Brix has launched an email address for locals to share their concerns and thoughts, conversations@thetonofbrix.co.uk .

You can read a full statement from Brixton Jamm and Percolate concerning the opening of Ton of Brix below:

We are well aware of the importance of Club 414 to many in the area, and the legacy it leaves behind. Its closing was a huge loss for Brixton’s nightlife scene and we joined you in mourning what the owners built. To be clear: we were in no way connected to their eviction. We are committed to honouring their legacy as an independent, grassroots music venue and maintaining this as a space for nurturing local talent. We are committed to supporting Brixton’s nightlife and providing somewhere special to dance and enjoy the fantastic, diverse scene that dates back decades in the area. Brixton Jamm has been a cornerstone venue in the area for two decades, and Percolate forged its early identity in Simulacra Studios on Coldharbour Lane almost a decade ago – we care deeply about the area and want to make sure that the Ton of Brix helps the history of a beloved space live on.

When we first were approached about the site in 2019, we were told by the property agents that it was unoccupied as the previous landlords to Hondo (Market Row LTD) had evicted the Club 414 tenants after a long process dating back to 2014, according to Brixton Buzz. This had previously included plans to turn the space into luxury flats or a Be At One by Market Row LTD. When we started the Ton of Brix project, it was well before the Save Nour Campaign that began in April 2020, and Taylor McWilliams/Hondo was not in the spotlight as they are now. We have no involvement with Hondo outside of the fact that they are the landlords that we pay rent to – the same as huge numbers of other independent businesses across Brixton Village, Market Row and beyond.

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We have been in touch with key voices from the Brixton community throughout the process of opening this venue – their input has been invaluable and we are forever grateful for it. In 2020 we sent a letter to the local community (reposted by Brixton Buzz) with some clarity on the vision for the venue and also to assuage concerns that it was becoming a private members club, as had been rumoured. At the same time, we spoke to prominent voices in the area, including Brixton Buzz and members of the Save Nour campaign, as well as local figures in the music scene that had been part of the scene in the area for their whole lives. These discussions were part of our wider efforts to make sure that the venue got off to the right start and was able to serve the community as well as build up the reputation with the high standards that we have set ourselves. These proposals include supporting live music from the area, providing hospitality staff from local bars free entry after their shifts, stocking beers from local breweries, hosting open decks for aspiring local DJs and more.

Back in 2019 when we started this venture, before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated that 40% of London venues had closed in the last decade, which has massively escalated to crisis levels in the previous two years. We want to launch something that bucks this trend and provides a positive force in the area rather than lying vacant.

We are excited about opening and welcoming everyone into the venue.

Isaac Muk is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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