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Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
What a difference a Tate makes
Tate Modern opened a year ago this week, since when it has been attracting hordes of art lovers to the less-than-salubrious environs of Southwark. Here, pub landlord Bill Garrow reflects on working in the shadow of the gallery.

I would say that almost three-quarters of our customers are here for the Tate, whereas before it opened, tourists accounted for about a quarter of our trade.

They've pretty much replaced the suits, the big pint drinkers who once accounted for 75% of our business.

View from the pub's patio
Tate Modern occupies the refitted shell of Bankside Power Station
The Founder's Arms has been here - right on the riverfront next to what is now the Tate - since 1980.

I worked here from 1990 to 1996, and returned again in February. My wife and I live on site.

The pub's always been busy in the summer - if the sun's shining, you can't get a seat outside on the patio.

But we've lost our regular trade.

The Express newspaper building next door once housed 800 people; Lloyds TSB is clearing the building where 3,500 people printed statements; and the National Grid building is now accommodation.

It's more like a train station now as people are in and out much faster.

'Not big drinkers'

They're not big drinkers, the tourists - we're selling more cokes and mineral water than beer.

Sign on side of building
Walk this way: Tourists beat a path to Southwark
In the time it once took to sell 10 36-gallon barrels of bitter, we now sell about three barrels; but we sell about three times as much coke and mineral water.

And the whole food operation has changed because of the tourist trade - it's just exploded.

The kitchen's had to be refurbished into what's essentially a fast-food kitchen because people just want snacky stuff.

Caught on the hop

When they first started building the Tate, the developers estimated about 3m people through the doors in the first year. They've actually put through 5m.

Globe Theatre
Tourist magnet: The nearby Globe Theatre
We tried to tell the brewery in 1995 that this place wouldn't be big enough, that our facilities just wouldn't cope. But they wanted to wait and see what happened.

They did give it a lick of paint and some new furniture two years ago, but the structure has always been like this.

We get bottlenecks at the bar and the exits when it's busy, so we're going to have to extend into the patio after the summer rush.

Unexpected consequences

We're suffering a bit at the moment because of the lack of tourists.

Dead sheep
Foot-and-mouth also dealt tourism a blow
Our week trade is very quiet. But our weekend trade is very busy, so English people are obviously still getting out, coming down to the Tate. Staff at the gallery say the same thing.

The cold weather's been a big factor, and foot-and-mouth has definitely not helped. We used to be very big with Americans for our fish and chips - we'd do 150 portions a day, we're down to 50.

We're right next to the Millennium Bridge, too. For the two days it was open last summer, we got absolutely hammered.

When it reopens, a lot of people are going to come and see the wobbly bridge because it's made a name for itself.

But after that, it'll be just another bridge to service the area - although it may help us in summer when the City boys come over on their way home.

Good for Southwark

Is Tate Modern a good thing? I'd have to say yes.

At least the building's being used - before it was just a pile of bricks sitting there. It's employed a lot of people and brought more into the area.

Millennium bridge
Access no areas: The 'wobbly bridge'
The tourists don't turn up until about 10 o'clock, so the area's as quiet as it ever was in the mornings. I still see foxes running around.

But there are problems, such as the illegal vendors and the hygiene problems they bring into the area. On a sunny weekend, there'll be eight to 15 of them lined up outside the Tate.

They're unlicensed, they leave rubbish behind, and they pay nothing for rent or refuse collection. And they're direct competition to us.

The gallery's interesting, but there's too many people for me. Working with them every day, I want to get away from the crowds. I'd rather hop in my canoe and go down the river.


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03 Apr 01 | Entertainment
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