'Everybody helps everybody, and it’s brilliant’: How the Harringay Arms is diversifying its appeal 

Since taking over the Harringay Arms in July 2021, Clay has introduced regular entertainment including music and drag shows

Since taking over the Harringay Arms in July 2021, Clay Lorenzo has introduced regular entertainment including live music and drag shows, with a monthly bottomless drag bingo event due to start on March 6 - Credit: Clay Lorenzo

When Clay Lorenzo took over Crouch End pub the Harringay Arms last July, he was faced with a challenge recognisable to most new landlords. Namely, how to balance the needs of established punters while throwing a bit of yourself into your new venture? 

Soon after taking ownership of the pub, the 30-year-old, who previously ran pubs in Manchester and Buckinghamshire, said there were certain changes he was keen to initiate from the off.  

One of the early wins was running live music from Thursday night through to Sunday, with Clay saying he believes it is no exaggeration to describe the pub as “one of the most favourable music venues in Crouch End”. 

More fundamentally, Clay said he wanted to evolve the Harringay Arms into what he describes as a “21st century pub”. For him, this involved curating an accepting environment, with a fairly strict approach to anyone making others feel uncomfortable. 

Part of this has involved the running of regular drag acts. Initially organised for twice a month, he has since dialled down the frequency to once, on the last weekend of each month, to ensure each show gets the maximum attendance.  

The front of the Harringay Arms was recently lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, following the invasion by Russia

The front of the Harringay Arms was recently lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, following the invasion by Russia - Credit: Clay Lorenzo

The pub is due to start a bottomless drag bingo event, hosted by Elsie Crumpet, beginning on March 6. Featuring pizza from neighbouring Sicilia in Tavona, plus bottomless cocktails and prosecco, Clay said Elsie was invited to host after pulling in 150 people to a performance she did at the pub.

“She’s a bit like Catherine Tate or Mrs Brown’s Boys." 

Having now run the pub for around seven months, Clay said that, while there have been some teething issues, the Harringay Arms is witnessing the benefits to diversifying its appeal without ignoring its existent clientele.  

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As well as noticing a more varied range of people coming in for events or a drink, he sees people who were initially against the direction he was taking the pub in coming along to drag shows.

“I think I’ve kept a good balance of normal day to day running of a pub and somewhere people feel accepted and can come and be what they want to be," he says. 

The result, Clay adds, is a pub where “everybody helps everybody, and it’s brilliant". 

“I’ve loved it," he said. "I’ve run pubs for 18 years, and this is by far the best.”