The Star and Garter, longstanding Montpelier pub and late night music venue, is threatened with closure by the 29th of May.
Known for its intimate late night reggae parties, dub raves, unique atmosphere and charismatic 75-year old Jamaican landlord/Resident DJ “Dutty Ken”, the Star & Garter remains one of Bristol’s most loved underground venues. However, due to ongoing financial difficulties, Ken has been unable to keep up with payments and now owes £20,000. In a final effort to try and raise money, Ken has launched a fundraising campaign and is urging people to make a donation and help keep the pub alive. Top Ranking’s Chris Satta met with Dutty Ken to find out more; with a look at the past and an uncertain future.
CS: So let’s start with a little bit of history… When did you first open the pub?
DK: I first opened the pub on the 5th of December 1993…Over 20 years now!
CS: Has the pub changed a lot over the years?
DK: Oh yeah, it’s gone through some real changes. It’s come a long long way from how it was back when I first opened it. Back in the day, the pub used to have lots of trouble right on the doorstep – lots of troublesome people who used to terrorise the local neighbourhood: stealing from people, starting fights… all kinda tings like that.. It really put people off coming in here, y’know? I got punched, spat at…One night I even end up in hosptial after someone threw an ice rock at my face. It got to the point where I couldn’t leave the pub without carrying a machete for my own protection! Just to keep people away… Yeah man it was tough… right up to the early 2000s we have this trouble on our doorstep.
CS: That sounds terrible… Did you ever come close to shutting the pub down because of this?
DK: Well despite all the crime and hardship…I kept it going, because this pub is my life, y’know? It’s all I have… and we’ve built something really special in here over the years.. something that’s almost unique… that not many other pubs in Bristol have.. There’s a certain vibe here that you can’t get nowhere else.. People come here because they know we’re open till very late, even on week nights.. You get all kinds of people coming here, cause they just want to listen to some nice tunes and have a little dance and enjoy the atmosphere of the place.. it’s a very special place to lots of people within the community
CS: I can tell! I’d heard of the Star & Garter before I’d even moved to Bristol! It seems like if the Star & Garter closed down it would leave a gaping hole in the local community. What would it mean to you personally if you lost this place?
DK: Well like I said.. this place is my life! I been through all kinda hardships in my life.. I suffered many nervous breakdowns over the years due to all the problems I’ve been faced with. I struggled with cancer a few years ago and had to undergo treatment, and since then I’ve never been able to enjoy life in the same way. But this pub brings me happiness and gives me a reason for being… Apart from my kids and my woman, the Star & Garter is the main source of happiness and purpose in my life… this place is my heaven – and if the taxman comes and takes it away from me then I’ll be living in hell!
CS: What have you been doing to raise funds – and has there been a positive reaction within the local community?
DK: Yes we’ve had some donations, and it’s so encouraging to see people wanting to help out. A friend of mine from BBC 4 came and filmed a video at the pub to raise awareness.. kids as young as 12 have been going round the local area on their bikes trying to encourage others to donate, which is so great to see. I’m trying to sell some of my artwork, and offering people half price entry for 12 months if they can donate £300 pounds upfront. We’re doing a fundraiser on Sunday night too, with a load of local DJs. There has been a positive response, but time is ticking away very fast and we still have a long long way to go before we reach the target. But I’m staying positive, and I hope people can find it within themselves to make any donation they can.. I would even be willing to sell the business off to somebody, just to make sure it doesn’t get into the hands of the taxman! It would be preserving not only my health and wellbeing, but preserving a piece of local history too!
The Star & Garter will be forced to close on the 29TH OF MAY if Ken cannot reach his £20,000 target. The Fundraiser will be taking place this Sunday 24 May from 10pm til late. For more information and updates on the situation, visit their Facebook page here.
Fundraiser event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1606565706276689/