The BAR-J Coffee Bar

Photo:BAR-J Coffee Bar 1963.

BAR-J Coffee Bar 1963.

Photo from the private collection of Brian & Evelyn Parker

Photo:BAR-J Menu

BAR-J Menu

Photo from the private collection of Brian & Evelyn Parker

Photo:The owner Evelyn Parker (front centre) with customers of the BAR-J

The owner Evelyn Parker (front centre) with customers of the BAR-J

From the private collection of Brian & Evelyn Parker.

Photo:Brian Parker with his two daughters Penny & Fiona.

Brian Parker with his two daughters Penny & Fiona.

From the private collection of Brian & Evelyn Parker.

Opened on Good Friday 1963

By Brian & Evelyn Parker

My wife and I were married in 1962 and lived in a rented flat in West Hampstead.  I was doing a sales job in the Brighton area and the weather always seemed so much better here. I remember the October of that year leaving Brighton in glorious sunshine and arriving into London to thick fog and drizzle. So our decision was made, we wanted to move to Brighton. I lost my job not long after so we looked at other options of employment.  We decided a coffee bar would be an interesting way to earn a crust for the both of us.

Besieged by a Scout Troop
We bought the Bar-J as a going concern, although not a very busy one.  At the time there was stiff competition in the town with over thirty coffee bars in the Brighton area.  Nevertheless, we were undeterred and decided that with hard work we could make a good living from it, and opened on Good Friday 1963. The first order at the Bar-J took us completely by surprise, we were besieged by a visiting Scout Troop who promptly ordered 30 egg & chips and as many Pepsi Colas as any healthy lads could drink in the quickest possible time.  Not a bad start for day one we thought.

Student customers
Most of our immediate customers came from the local catering college in Richmond Terrace and in addition there was two schools (Fawcett & Pelham) just around the corner. Most of the kids became regulars and were treated as friends rather than customers, and many ended up working for us part-time out of school hours.   Walking around Brighton today I still see many of our old customers who are probably grandparents by now.

Monster coffee machine
No coffee bar worth its salt would be without the ubiquitous 'GAGGIA' coffee machine. This monster machine breathed and hissed steam and sat there growling on the counter and was the centre point of the coffee bar, as I expect it was in many other coffee bars in Brighton.  Frothy coffee was dispatched in the standard 'Duralex' coffee cups and burgers and chips were accompanied by tomato sauce, squeezed from the familiar tomato shaped plastic bottles.

The Juke Box
Possibly the most important item in the coffee bar to the kids was the Juke Box (preferable a ROCK-OLA one) which belted out music (Beatles, Animals and the Rolling Stones) morning, noon and night!  By the end of the day my wife and I normally went to bed with a headache as we opened at ten and closed when there were no more customers...usually some time after midnight or one- o'clock at the weekend.

Famous customers
The Bar-J had two floors and the 'Rockers' occupied the basement whilst the 'Mods' were happy with the ground floor.  We lived above the shop so to speak and both of our daughters (Fiona & Penny) were born there. As a popular coffee bar we were not without our visiting personalities, a very young Adam Faith was a regular visitor as was Gary Farr who had a local band called the 'T-Bones'. Bobby Samson could be seen most weekends and normally with a new attractive girl on his arm.

Motorbikes and Lambrettas
Every weekend the road outside, which had no yellow lines then, was packed with motorbikes and Lambrettas and not a hint of trouble to be found anywhere.  Most of the kids used to flit between the Bar-J and the Little Chef coffee bar that was next to the 'King and Queen' pub. After the first year of trading at the Bar-J we did so well we took ourselves off to Majorca for Christmas for a much needed break, my wife being pregnant with our first daughter, Penny.

Couldn't get away from the music
On arriving at the hotel the only music I wanted to hear was Spanish, guess what was on the Juke Box?  You guessed it!  'I wanna hold your hand' by the Beatles which was No 1 at the time.  This was played incessantly by the 'Brits' staying in the hotel. Happy days and great memories of the 60's when things were a lot more simplistic as opposed to today's coffee bars with a myriad of coffee served in a dozen different ways.  Just one type of coffee back then, black or white!

Introduced by Trevor Chepstow
This page was added on 21/10/2008.
Comments about this page

A slice through time and quite fascinating.

By Edward Castle (20/06/2008)

I remember the 'Bar J Coffee Bar' very well as I went to school at Fawcett School just around the corner. Many a day I would bunk off lessons to spend my dinner money there rather than eat the school meals!

Happy days! Bring back 60's so we can all go out and live again!

By Trevor Chepstow (05/07/2008)

Interesting to hear how the Mods and Rockers peacefully co-existed at Bar J. Perhaps this was neutral ground, like Switzerland, and the punch-ups were saved for Easter weekend on the beach to the East of the Palace Pier?

By Adrian Baron (30/04/2009)

I was doing a secretarial course at the Pelham Street college 1969-1970 and a bunch of us used to go to the Bar-J almost every day, sometimes when we should have been at lectures! I remember the juke box. We probably spent more money in it than we did on coffee.

By Renia Simmonds (04/03/2010)

I spent a lot of my evenings there, great times. I remember spending a weekend at Climping Sands with customers from the Bar J, we all had black t shirts with Bar J on them (I was too embarrassed to wear mine).

By Dick Howell (29/08/2011)

Bobby Samson - my word. I remember he went out with a girl in our street, Tilgate Close her name was Noreen Baker. He used to turn up in an American car I think, with the roof down. Wonder where they are now? Dave Baker was Noreen's brother. He must be close to 60 now.

By Barry (29/08/2011)

Thanks for the memories. I spent plenty of Saturday afternoons drinking cappuccinos thinking I was the bees knees, somewhere around 1964-66.

By Jeanne Clarke-Walker (nee Cornwell) (02/01/2012)

I used to go in the Bar J a lot mid 60s to 70s. Does any body remember Ernie and Lil, lovely couple. If you did any thing wrong, Lil would let you know. I met my wife there Sue- she run the place after Ernie and Lil went to the States in the early 70s when new owners took over. We are still married after just over 42 years.

By Mick Gillingham (08/07/2012)

Dear Michael,
Sorry but we have had to delete your post, as sharing information like this breaches people's privacy.
Comments Editor

By Michael Brittain (20/03/2013)

I was a Secondary Technical School pupil, Hanover Terrace. Used to visit the Bar J at the time, 'Mr Tambourine Man' was continually playing on the Juke Box. Fawcett boys were our arch enemies when on The Level, but we seemed to get on okay when in here.

By Ken Bishop (22/06/2013)

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.