Hair-raising booze row in historic Camden Passage

ANTIQUES specialists fear world famous Camden Passage could be transformed into a “boozers alley” if plans to serve alcohol at a new “hen night” salon are given the go-ahead by Islington Council tomorrow (Thursday).

A row has blown up in the historic Islington street after The Bar Blow – a specialist salon which opened in November to “help the ladies of Islington get ready to go out” – unveiled plans to serve wine and cocktails to its customers.

The owners insist they have no plans to turn into a bar and just want to give their customers a little treat as they prepare to hit the town – but traders and residents are concerned that Camden Passage’s unique atmosphere could be eroded even further.

Pauline Coakley Webb, who runs antiques specialists Style Gallery, which has been in Camden Passage for three decades, said: “We don’t want the nature of the Passage changing beyond all recognition.

“If The Blow Bar think the only way to make their business viable is by selling alcohol to customers then it changes the nature of what their business is supposed to be. And if they get a licence it will set a precedent for other people looking to set up in the other vacant premises.

“We don’t need any more alcohol in the Passage, and there’s a general feeling that this could lead to a different ambiance and culture – one that is completely alien to what we have known for 30 years or more.”

Janet Holdstock, from antique lighting specialists Turn On, said: “Camden Passage is not a main thoroughfare.

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“It is a quiet stone-paved passage with a mixture of quality antique shops, well-known restaurants and some retail outlets. It is also a quiet residential area.

“To allow a bar to sell alcohol would be letting the genie out of the bottle and risk turning Camden Passage into an extension of Upper Street. Camden Passage should not be allowed to become Boozers Alley.”

Other objectors have written to Islington Council accusing The Blow Bar of operating a “Hen Night salon” upstairs and raising safety concerns about “scissors, knives and razors in a party atmosphere”. But Damon Birrane, one of The Blow Bar’s owners said: “The business is set up to help the ladies of Islington get ready to go out on Upper Street so, to enhance that service, we want to be able to offer our customers a glass of Chardonnay or bubbly or a cocktail. We do not cut hair and as such do not use scissors or razors.

“Upstairs there is a private area where friends can get their hair and make-up done and though we wouldn’t turn away hen parties, we are not targeting them.”

He added: “Serving alcohol is not the primary purpose of our business and we are certainly not trying to become a bar by stealth.

“We are happy for the licensing authority to put conditions on so that if we were ever to sell up it could not be turned into a bar by someone else.

“We don’t want to extend Upper Street. We are a young dynamic independent business set up by four friends to enhance Camden Passage by offering a unique service to the people of Islington.”

Bar Blow’s application to serve alcohol from 10am to 10pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am until 7pm on Sunday is due to be heard at Islington Town Hall at 10am tomorrow.