The Amy factor?


A COUPLE of weeks ago somebody living in Camden Town argued against a late licence for the Dublin Castle music pub on the grounds that it was associated with ‘Amy Whitehouse’… this filed eighteen months after Amy Winehouse’s death. For all the arguments for and against later opening hours, supporters of the pub thought that was a bit much.

The same lovers of Camden Town’s nightlife are wondering whether a vague understanding of Amy’s night time exploits in NW1 might have been behind the Border Agency’s decision to speed out a press release about the Hawley Arms soon after it held three workers there on visa grounds last week. The message was that other businesses should make sure they made the right checks when hiring staff.

Newspapers aren’t going to complain at getting quick, reliable information, and people want to know when a pub seems temporarily closed for business and rumours are circulating.

But no doubt the Hawley’s management and other licensees in Camden saw it a different way and were wondering why the Home Office sought publicity for this case with apparently more gusto than it had for other businesses involved in the “series of raids” investigators say they have carried out recently in London.

Some privately think it is all down to the ‘Amy factor’. The press statement didn’t namecheck her. That would be too much. But everybody with half an interest remembers how the singer sometimes used to suddenly pop up serving behind the bar at the Hawley Arms. She did that once or twice at the Dublin Castle too. Below is a piece I wrote many years ago is just one example of how her love for the Hawley Arms would gain attention in the nationals back then.

The truth is, the pub’s real story came later with its remarkable recovery from the Camden Fire in 2008. How it is still standing is a wonder in itself. Its return was a triumph and the pub garnered new admirers – not all of them with Grammy awards at home – in the process.

But people often still talk about the pub as if Amy was its only customer, which is probably exactly what she would have hated. She liked being just another customer at cafes and bars in this neighbourhood. She was a celebrity who did not hide behind security gates in Highgate village. Painful or not, she lived it in Camden Town for us all to see and was on first name terms and gave ‘hellos’ to the road sweepers and kebab shop owners.

Cynics in Camden believe the agency was able to send out its warning in an excited press release and publicise its work by zeroing in on what it had done at the Hawley Arms simply on the grounds that it was more famous than a nondescript all night mart in Haringey or little known dry cleaners in Hackney.

It’s hard to argue that the Border Agency’s work should not be reported. It’d be worrying if they launched operations without explaining what they were doing to the public. Some in Camden, judging by the mood in some of the area’s pubs, just felt a little extra tariff – that of being publicly flogged as an example – had been applied in exchange for being a famous bar. The Amy factor.amywords

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