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)

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