Meet the sisters whose Hackney dive bar became an East London community

Living in a big city can sometimes feel lonely, but it needn’t have to feel that way with a place like Blondies.

The family-run bar in Hackney, which launched in 2015, is a space where music, motorbikes and skateboarding mingle freely – and we love the sound of it!

We caught up with sisters Verity and Sharmaine Cox to find out more about this East London gem and how the venue has survived the crazy year that has been 2020.

Just looking at snaps of Blondies pre-lockdown, you can see this is a place where like-minded people come together and just want to have fun.

[CREDIT: Blondies]

“When we first opened, my two sisters and I really wanted to open a place where people felt welcome but also have all the other elements that make Blondies what it is,” Verity explained.

“Music, drinks and just a bloody good time! And it’s become so much more than that. The people we have met through the bar have been incredible and we’ve had so many amazing opportunities.”

“When we first opened, we had no idea that we would hold a Mastodon gig at our bar, that’s crazy!” she added, referring to the US heavy metal band from Atlanta.

[CREDIT: Blondies]

“Being four sisters, we always joked about opening our own place, or starting a band. We still joke about the band stuff but so happy it went the way it did.”

Of course, the hospitality industry was hit hard by the events of this year and independent businesses suffered more than most.

Speaking about how they coped during such a difficult time, Sharmaine told us: “As was everyone, we were really unsure as to what it would be like and what it meant for our business and everyone across London.

[CREDIT: Blondies]

“We decided to start doing beer giveaways as the beer we had needed to be drunk, and it also felt like a way to boost morale for people who were missing pints!

“As per usual, our friends were amazing. Everyone rallied around to spend what they could, which really helped,” she continued.

“We also did a Crowdfunder, which was amazing and tried to deliver the merchandise thank you’s by hand as much as possible – different amounts of donations meant different packages; socks and T-shirts, loyalty cards etc.”

[CREDIT: Blondies]

Being forced to close was also the perfect opportunity for the sisters to get some refurbishment work done, ensuring Blondies was at it’s best once bars were allowed to reopen.

“While we were closed we decided to fix a few things that we wouldn’t normally have time to do, and that kind of spiralled into a much bigger project, but we couldn’t be happier with the changes, and ultimately helped keep us sane during lockdown,” the siblings said.

“We ended up pulling down a freestanding wall inside, which gave us a lot more room, which couldn’t have come at a better time.

[CREDIT: Blondies]

“We were really happy as the bricks we removed ended up helping to build some skate parks across South and East London, so in the end we got pretty lucky with what we were able to do with the little funds we had, and also managed to help the local skating communities.

“It also meant we could help the skate shop, which is inside Blondies and is run by our mate Sam Charlton.”

Of course, Blondies couldn’t wait to kick open their doors once July hit and people were allowed to socialise again – but adjusting to the new way of life hasn’t always been easy.

[CREDIT: Blondies]

“It was a strange start and has definitely been interesting to reopen and adapt to the ‘new normal’,” Verity explained.

“Our bar has had some pretty sweaty gigs and big nights out and I can’t imagine that we will see those happening again very soon, but it’s also been nice to be able to sit down and enjoy the space in a much more relaxed environment.

“Everyone has to be seated now, which is a change from the rowdiness we’re used to, but I think everyone is conscious about trying to keep each other safe.

[CREDIT: Blondies]

“It’s been different but I think everyone knows the situation so there hasn’t been any negative pushback, everyone is just excited to be able to get out and are happy to follow the rules,” she added.

“We have been so lucky to have such an amazing group of people that support the bar but most importantly have become amazing friends.”

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