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The coffee bar scene

The Zodiac Coffee Bar
Photo by Chris Kisko

A sneaky BabyCham

I was born in 1947 near Seven Dials and so was the right age to enjoy the days of the coffee bars. The Zodiac will never be forgotten; I met my past husband there. I spent hours over hot chocolates, listening to the latest on the jukebox, then popping across the road, and down the little street opposite to the Seven Stars pub. I used to have a BabyCham with my friends; we felt so, so daring as we were all under-age. The White Pigeons was a great place, as was the Scandinavia and the quieter Penny Farthing in East Street. Of course there was The Cottage up the little alley off Middle Street. I worked there for Mike many a night to save for holidays; up in the attic the boys sometimes played cards.

Working at Hannington’s

These memories overlap the period when I worked as part of the window display team at Hannington’s. I remember the endless basements and upper corridors linking all the historic workrooms and storerooms. My fellow junior Stella and I were always a little scared going to the basement under the East Street section. It appeared that behind closed doors, the tunnels would connect to those believed to link the Royal Pavilion to Mrs Fitzherbert’s home. I was also taught to use the wonderful “cord and plug” telephone switchboard at Hannington’s, and remember being so distraught when I once carelessly unplugged the chairman Sir Ivor.

Fashionable ‘beatnik’ look

I often tell friends about the Chinese Jazz Club in the Aquarium buildings. Wow! Was that great jiving exercise?  I could keep going for hours in those days. I remember we also went to the dances at the YMCA in the New Steine. One of my great dance memories was when the jazz groups/jam sessions happened on a sunny, summer weekend on the fish-market hard. The ‘beatnik’ look was popular then. I wore an old shirt of my dad’s over my swimwear, a trend of the time, when dancing/jiving there. Happy days never to be forgotten.

Do you remember?

Were you part of the ‘coffee bar scene’? Do you remember places like The Zodiac or The Cottage? Maybe you went to different places? If you can share your memories with us, please leave a comment below.

Comments about this page

  • Hi Simone. As I’ve said before, I remember both The Zodiac and The Cottage, I also remember The Star, where we used to nip across from the Zodiac and have a quick rum and blackcurrant before returning to The Zodiac for the juke box and the pin table. Great times!

    By Tom Paul (18/03/2014)
  • I took the photo of the Zodiac coffee bar and have submitted other bits about it but failed to add this interesting point: In the 1950s, my mother worked in the room where the Zodiac was situated in the 1960s. The room was an office for Katrina Publications and there was a woman called Katrina who advertised in national newspapers. She gave personal horoscopes by post when people sent her their birth details and a cheque or postal order (around five pounds I believe) – my mother made up the horoscopes by taking various parts of predictions from a collection of pre written predictions at random. These were typed into a personal letter by my mother and posted off as the ‘personal reading’ It was a typical con of the period. She advertised with adverts using zodiac signs so I am guessing this is where the name for the Zodiac coffee bar came from, though someone may know better and can add to this?

    By Chris Kisko (08/04/2014)
  • We used to enjoy Tingey’s which was close to the Whisky a Go Go. Slightly eccentric interior with fishing nets etc but the jukebox had many jazz records in it. And Coke served with a slice of lemon was really quite sophisticated then!

    By Rodger Olive (09/04/2014)
  • I remember The Scandinavia in Western Road, the Lorelei in the Laines, and the Penny Farthing in East Street. Also The Starlight Rooms. No pictures, sorry.

    By Andy Smith (12/04/2014)
  • I remember the Cottage Coffee Bar up a little alleyway off Middle Street? It was a restaurant the last time I looked. I used to hang out there with my mates from Dunster Close, Hollingdean in the evenings eating chip butties, drinking coffee and playing cards. We’d often go to the Starlight Rooms to try to chat up Swedish and Roedean girls without much success or go to the Regent ballroom walking round in circles trying to pluck up courage to ask a girl to dance. The Pavilion Bar was where everyone left the address for various parties if you were in the know.

    By Steve Willeter (02/08/2015)
  • Does anyone remember Pan Pans and Can Cans coffee bars in Little Preston Street?

    By Brenda Patrick /Mells (12/08/2015)
  • Used to to Tingeys every day when I worked at the Sun Alliance.  Vivien and David left to go to Canada with their two children. Is anyone in contact with them?

    By Betty Hayde (27/01/2016)
  • There must be others out there who almost lived at the Whiskey a Go Go in Queens Square as I did for about a year back then. Small dark and usually heaving all evening. There was a drinking club upstairs and the owner ran a very flashy red American convertible and also shot his wife I seem to recall. It was absolutely packed tight every night one couldn’t help being pressed tight up against members of the opposite sex. That and the blaring juke box made it my idea of heaven at the time.

    By David (25/08/2017)
  • All the memories of Brighton in the sixties come flooding back, great times. 

    By Tony Smith (11/10/2017)
  • Hello Chris Kisko! I don’t think Katrina Publications existed in the 50s. Their first office was in Hove, early 60s. The Zodiac coffee bar is a coincidence. I remember the name Mrs Kisko, but I think your mother worked for them later than you think.

    By shelagh ferreira (23/01/2018)
  • I found this site via The Lorelei (in the early sixties) and the Cottage sites and what do I find? The Whiskey a Go Go! The club upstairs was The Blue Gardenia and the owner, who did indeed shoot his wife, was Harvey Holford. I recall also the Starlight Rooms, the King and Queen with our gang calling out from the gallery “Bring out your dead” when the time bell rang and singing “Day trippers go home” at the sessions at the fish market. Bonnie Menzies (Uncal (sic) Bonnie) ran the Chinese Jazz club but I never did find the crocodile sandwiches.

    I went to the University of Sussex but I was building it, not learning at it. Most of my memories are faded and muddled now as I left the town of my birth in ’64 or ’65 to seek my fortune (for success – see crocodile sandwiches) so these pages help to get the gears to mesh. Sadly very few names of my contemporaries  are evident here. One of those names was Pete Hill, known as 97 for singing The Wreck of The old 97 and other musical villany. 

    By Andy Grenyer (29/01/2018)
  • I remember fondly the “Córdoba” Coffee Bar in Western Rd.

    By Tony (07/10/2018)
  • Does anyone remember the Lorelei – a rather secret place behind an ordinary door and down some steps. I had my fortune told down there by a man who said someone was looking for me. Never found out who though. Probably my mum.
    The Starlight rooms were great too. I think they were near the aquarium

    By Karen Gunnell (24/04/2019)
  • My parents had the Scorpion coffee bar in Waterloo Street Hove. Anyone out there remember it and also the Church Brothers Chris and Pat, who drag raced at Santa Pod with Golf Rush

    By Frankie Church (25/04/2019)
  • Not sure about the Scorpion but I certainly remember The White Pigeons in Waterloo Street run by Tim and Moya Anderson, very arty clientele. I went on to marry Moya in 1965 after Tim and she divorced. She sadly passed in 2005 after 40 years happily (well most of the time) married.

    By Ray Dunk (07/07/2019)
  • I worked at the Zodiac on sunday afternoons to sub my megre apprentices wages ,making coffee and burgers. I remember the Little Chef rockers cafe by the King and Queen, we would throw chips at the mods when they were unfortunatly caught by the red traffic lights by the cafe, such fun and a laugh until we realised that our chips were now in the paka hoods of the mods. I became a mocker, i liked the mod clothes but loved my Vellocette motorbike, when
    I get nostalgic over that bike my wife Jeannette (nee Carpenter) points to the ring on her finger, There’s your Velo Mick.Ha such memories. Mick Glew,

    By Michael Glew (29/01/2020)
  • I went into google today to see if there was anything about coffee bars in Brighton through the sixties which led me to here.
    Many of the names quoted I remember plus more. One in particular was a coffee bar situated opposite St. Peter’s church,it was called the Bar J and was owned by a couple called Brian and Eileen they were more from the beatnik era. Brian sported a full beard and Eileen had hair all the way down her back. They were naturists and used to go of to Telscombe cliffs to sunbathe on the nudist beach there. They would go off on a sunny day and leave us regulars to run the coffee bar while they were away.
    At the age of fifteen it was the first coffee bar I went to and it became like a second home to me.

    I also looked at the ‘hippies on the beach’ site, talk about being taken down memory lane. It looks like I even get a mention in one of the comments.

    By Reg Woodhouse (12/06/2020)
  • I remember the Balladtree in Brighton, somewhere around the Bond street area in the late 1950 and 1960’s. It was where the “ban the bombers” hung out. It was a good meeting place of its kind. I am trying to find the name of a cafe/coffee bar in Church Road, Hove (not Western Road), on the south side, in early 1960’s and probably longer. I do not think it was popular with youngsters but I do remember a group of businessmen would meet there. It was a favourite of mine and a group of friends. I thought I remembered as it being called the Continental, but think now that is mis-memory. May have been where Four Seasons is /was. Trying to write a novel of that time…

    By Deryn Elizabeth Bell (24/06/2020)
  • I remember the Whiskey a go go getting some very bad press when I was at school. It shocked us then but now would seem tame. One of the claims was “no girl could possibly be a virgin if she went there “. How things have changed .
    Yes, the proprietor shot his wife. I also remember a huge mods and rockers fight that filled the whole of Queens Square outside the Whiskey.

    By Deryn Bell (25/06/2020)
  • Kellys 1960 shows the Gondola at 36 Church Rd,Hove which is just past Second Avenue. I looked in Kellys 1960/1964/1968/1970 and can find no mention of the Ballardtree listed under cafes or restaurants.

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (26/06/2020)
  • I am wondering whether you meant the Gondola coffee bar on the left hand side of Church Road going towards the Old Hove Town Hall before it burned down. A whole group of us used to go in there there after ice skating on a Sunday afternoon at the ice stadium in West Street. We would order a coffee and stay there for a couple of hours.

    By Doreen Young nee Brown (26/06/2020)
  • For Deryn Bell. I believe, but I am not totally certain, that the coffee bar you are remembering was called the Matterhorn. This was on the south side of Church Road, Hove, between the Public Library and the Sackville Road/ Hove Street junction. My friends and I used to meet there in the late 50s/early 60s. There may have been other coffee bars further along that side of Church Road towards Palmeira Square but I can’t remember any – ageing brain etc.

    By David Robertson (02/07/2020)
  • Many thanks for all responses. I am fairly sure now that the cafe/coffee bar I am remembering is the Gondola. We went there regularly and there was a friendly and welcoming proprietor. The reason I remember the group of men (seemed to be business men) who were regulars is because one of them was strikingly handsome…tall and dark. (those were the days!) and I was an impressionable teenage girl.
    Maybe I saw you there Doreen?
    I do remember the Matterhorn as well and also went there.
    I may have mispelt Ballad Tree. It was very “hippy ” as I remember. We had one or two police raids there.
    I remember most of the other coffee bars that have been mentioned and it is very interesting and nostalgic to read the comments.
    I have posted some photos and am waiting for them to be approved.

    By Deryn Bell (04/07/2020)
  • My Dad opened a small coffee bar on the corner of Portland Road & Bolsover Road in 1968/69, the entrance was in Bolsover road, it opened from 6pm till late, but after some months, the old bloke who had the cafe almost opposite complained to the council that it was taking his trade away, even though he closed at 3pm, but my dad hadn’t done things correctly & the council shut him down, but it got a lot of trade, I just wonder if anyone remembers it.

    By Ron Porter (16/07/2020)
  • We used to use the Gondola around 1970 after finishing our weekly meeting at Hove Police Station for the Volunteer Police Cadets, I was about 16.
    I remember the Gondola for glass coffee cups and saucers, cheesy chips and Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Chile on the jukebox.

    By Dave Sanders (28/12/2020)
  • A bit disappointed that no one can remember the ‘Bar J’ opposite ‘St Peters Church’ 12/06/2020.
    Going to give some thought regarding the ‘Balladtree’ 24/06/2020 as to where and what name it might have been.

    By Reginald Gennaro Woodhouse (19/02/2021)
  • I used to dance at the Chinese Jazz club every week with “Spats”, and also nearly lived at the Lorelai, lovely memories.

    By valerie ann sinden (01/08/2021)
  • I remember ‘Spats’. I think he became a trainee chef at Le Francais in Kemp Town. I wonder what happened to him.
    Also Uncle Bonnie (Bonnie Manzi?) running the Chinese Jazz Club on fridays. Used to go there with UJ (John Stafford) from Kemp Town. I remember UJ dying suddenly at a young age. He worked as a hospital orderly at Sussex County after a stint making bras at Keyser Bondor, was rather overweight and was often called out to attend the hospital in the middle of the night. Always thought that combination contributed to his early demise but he seemed dedicated to the job.
    Does anyone know what happened to Bonnie?

    By Nick Burdett (02/08/2021)
  • For all those people who remember Tingeys Coffee shop, especially Betty Hayde. Yes I am in touch with the family, worked with their son for decades in Melbourne. If anyone wants to get in touch,, I was talking with him, David the son, just last night about the scene in Brighton. I came from Isle of Wight, similar age.

    By david Jenkinson (31/08/2021)
  • I believe at some point my father was left running the Ballad Tree, his name was Eric Barker.

    It was at The Ballard Tree that my mother and father met around 1959/60. My Mother came to the coffee bar with a friend and at the end of the night my father was so taken with my mother that once he had closed up he went to visit her and asked her to accompany him to lunch the next day. He took the flowers off all the coffee bar tables and took those to her too.

    My father left Brighton to go to Oxford to live where he had another business.

    As a child I always used to play all the records from the Ballad Tree juke box when my parents went out, each record had the centre missing so I needed to replace it with a special little disk before I could play the record.

    Does anyone have any photos of The Ballad Tree I could see?

    By Erica Arnold (21/11/2021)
  • Does anyone remember The Box club above the Wimpy Bar in Western Road?

    By Sarah Charlwood (22/06/2022)
  • A great place for a quiet coffee and good hosts, not often remembered by many was “Tiffanys” in Eastern Road just opposite the Odeon cinema. Suddenly made popular by the then ever present scooter boys. Later joined by the local motor cycle lads. No signs of friction or animosity either way. Now probably long gone!

    By Norman Porcher (13/01/2023)
  • Anyone remember The Ballerina in Hove , George St in the 60’s?

    By Martin T (23/07/2023)
  • I worked at the Malacca coffee bar on Duke Street for a few years and wonder if anybody remembers it. Sometimes when ‘off duty’ I would go to La Causette coffee ‘lounge’ in the Metropole Hotel for a glass of Russian tea which I thought terribly sophisticated as it was served in a glass!

    By Mary Lowry (03/02/2024)

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