Operator taking over former Proud Camden venue says his company is ten times bigger
Roger Payne from Camden Dining will open Fest in Alex Proud's former gallery bar
15 March, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
THE man taking over a venue made famous by gallery owner Alex Proud says he will bring a fresh approach to one of the area’s best-known nightclubs, insisting fears that Camden Town is losing its bohemian reputation are unfounded.
Entertainment entrepreneur Roger Payne met the New Journal yesterday (Wednesday) after it was revealed he would be taking over the Proud Camden unit in the Stables Market. He said: “I am an admirer of Alex Proud. He has been a large figure in Camden life, but my company is approximately 10 times the size and I have been in Camden a lot longer than anyone else.”
He added: “It is important we recognise the legacy Alex has given everyone. We are respectful of what Alex created but we are bringing a new element to it. It is just part of the natural flow of the area. I often think the canal is a good analogy for Camden Town: the waters may move slowly, but they do move. It does change here.”
The closure of Proud Camden is one of a series of changes in the historic Camden market. The New Journal recently revealed how Mr Proud, one of Camden Town’s iconic venue operators and one of the star dealers on Channel 4’s hit show Four Rooms, had offered to double his rent to new landlords LabTech, the firm now in control of a controversial revamp of NW1’s market sites.
“I pleaded and begged to stay. I would have done anything to stay – and would still do,” Mr Proud said last month. He is now planning a new venue on the Southbank, and is in discussions to open one elsewhere in Camden Town.
Mr Payne’s new venture, Fest, will open in the Horse Hospital on March 24. “We are the most established bar operator in Camden and we saw an opportunity for a new venue,” he said. “It is a fantastic canvas on which to put a new picture. Proud was a vertical drinking bar. Ours will be much more focused on food and a night out. People will want to dance but we want to create a better balance.”
Mr Payne has been involved in the Camden Town entertainment scene since the 1980s and his firm, Camden Dining, has run some of the area’s most popular restaurants and bars, including Dingwalls, Jongleurs, Gilgamesh, Shaka Zulu and The Cuban. He said: “We are about providing the elements people want for their whole night out. Many people under 45 do not live in houses that are big enough to host dinner parties for their birthdays – we can help them with that. They like to come to our venues and be entertained.”
The closure of Proud was seen by some critics as another sign of the increasing pace of change in the markets after they were bought by Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi in 2014. Opinion is divided, with many saying the bohemian nature of Camden Town is under threat from increased commercialisation and gentrification, while others say the changes are about long-term investment, cleaning up the markets and making them more attractive to a wider variety of people.
Mr Payne believes Lab Tech, who also own a swathe of high street properties and are building the new Hawley Wharf development, will improve Camden Town. “I think they get a bad ride and they do not deserve it,” he said. “What they are doing is amazing, with a massive sense of social responsibility. They are investing. They are protecting the area’s heritage. The Victorian buildings are being cared for. The place feels tidier.”