Over 70 people came to the opening of the Hard Jazz Cafe in Croydon on Monday where they ate delicious Pakistani food, listened to live reggae music and smoked Shisha-Moroccan herbal tobacco.
The Hard Jazz Cafe is not just a place to eat, it is the first sign that riot-hit London Road, with all its different ethnic groups, is coming back to life.
The cafe stands opposite the line of buildings that were looted and burned to ash in the arson attacks during the riots in August, which left neighbours and friends in a hopeless financial situation.
Local businessman Ajazz Mir, which is the owner of the cafe and has lived in Croydon for 17 years, decided to open the cafe when he walked down London Road after the riots “and found an empty shop for rent”.
Mir hopes the shisha cafe could bring much-needed revival to the local community. He said: “I want to show people the positive side of Croydon.”
This Monday community spirit and hope emerged as people from the Moroccan, Indian and Pakistani communities came to visit the opening of the cafe.
Keith Miller, senior manager of Croydon Enterprise Loan Fund, said he was really happy to see that the cafe was opening: “It is wonderful that people are making progress in Croydon after all the trouble with the riots.”
Alia Khawaja, 36, daughter of Mir, said she believed the cafe would be a positive thing for the local people in Croydon and “boost the local economy.” She said she looked forward to bringing her friends and family.
Aubrey Bryan, a 69-year-old musician who came to the opening to play steel combo, was thrilled with the new cafe, and said: “It is so nice to play music again in Croydon.” He added he would come back to play music again and meet more people.
As the night went on, the road outside the cafe, which saw some of the most unforgettable scenes of the London riots, were once again filled with people, but this time it was to mark the beginning of Croydon’s regeneration.
Mir was pleased with the opening: “The response has been excellent. It is a place for everyone to come and join together, and I want all the communities in Croydon to come and enjoy the place.”