Which London borough has the worst pubs? An important CityMetric investigation

Mmmmmm beer. Image: Getty.

There are countless ways of ranking different parts of London from best to worst: transport links, crime rates, does it have a Wimpy, etc. But only one truly matters: are the pubs crap or not?

To start this investigation, we need a list of all the pubs in London – and the Greater London Authority helpfully keeps a list of all 4000+ of the city’s pubs as part of its ‘Cultural Infrastructure map’, curated by the Campaign for Real Ale (well, just the pubs bit of it, I assume). The list doesn’t appear to be 100 per cent up-to-date, but to be fair, keeping up with pub closures and name changes would probably be a full-time job. But does allow us to get a reasonably representative view of how London’s pubs are distributed. For example:

Which borough has the most pubs?

Colour scale of ‘head’ to ‘beer’ where head indicates not many pubs and ‘beer’ indicates lots of pubs.

If raw numbers are what matters to you, Westminster is where it’s at, with more than 10 per cent of London’s pubs. Barking & Dagenham has the fewest, with just 29 to serve an entire borough.

Which borough has the most pubs per square mile?

Number represents the number of pubs per square mile in the borough.

If you break it down by area, The City – yes okay, not technically a borough, have a sweetie – stands out way ahead of everywhere else, packing over 200 pubs into The Square Mile. (It’s actually slightly larger than one square mile, explaining the slight discrepancy between the count and the count per square mile.)

Which borough has the most pubs per person? Or 10,000 people, for the purposes of this map?

Number represents the number of pubs per 10,000 people who live in the borough.

The City also wins on pubs per 10,000 residents, because only about four people live there. The inner London boroughs do much better here, and being in West London and on the river seems to help sustain a greater number of pubs.

Boroughs not specific enough?

Here’s the city broken up into square mile chunks that are coloured according to how many pubs in each one. Looking at this, the Thames also seems to help in southeast London to an extent – Greenwich’s pubs certainly seem to have clustered along the river.

(Note: this map is slightly unfair on places on the fringes of London where, plausibly, you might e.g. have several excellent locals that are in, for example, Essex. Well, some pubs, at least.)

But where are London’s shittest pubs?

Ah, some kind of “connoisseur” who doesn’t measure pubs by weight, is it? Taking the GLA’s list of pubs and matching as many of them as possible to reviews on Google and TripAdvisor, here is the average rating (out of 5) per pub in each borough.

Sorry, Barking & Dagenham, but you officially have the shittest pubs in London, at least according to the sort of people who review pubs online – 3.64 out of 5 on average.

To be fair, this doesn’t include the future shipping crate-based bars promised by the pictures on the website for the Barking Riverside development, which could turn out to be London’s most highly regarded drinking establishments, what with their excellent views of... erm, Thamesmead and Crossness Sewage works.

Lewisham, on the other hand, is the king of the boroughs when it comes to pubs, with 4.18 out of 5 on average. Although there’s always the possibility that people who go drinking in Lewisham just have really low standards.

Except, hmm. Because if we look at just the 1 star reviews, sure, Barking & Dagenham does have the highest proportion (15.7 per cent), and Lewisham has one of the lowest (7.7 per cent)

Numbers represent the percentage of 1 star reviews for pubs in the borough.

But there are a higher proportion of 5 star reviews to be found in boroughs other than Lewisham (46.1 per cent) – notably Bromley and Haringey which are both near the 60 per cent mark.

Numbers represent the percentage of 5 star reviews for pubs in the borough.

And B&D has far from the lowest proportion of 5 star scores, beating Newham, Enfield, Croydon, Hounslow and Havering.

So while you’re more likely to have a bad time in a Barking & Dagenham pub than anywhere else in London, you will have a higher chance of having a really good time than in say, Croydon.

They should put that on the “Welcome to our borough” signs.


 

 
 
 
 

Urgently needed: Timely, more detailed standardized data on US evictions

Graffiti asking for rent forgiveness is seen on a wall on La Brea Ave amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Los Angeles, California. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

Last week the Eviction Lab, a team of eviction and housing policy researchers at Princeton University, released a new dashboard that provides timely, city-level US eviction data for use in monitoring eviction spikes and other trends as Covid restrictions ease. 

In 2018, Eviction Lab released the first national database of evictions in the US. The nationwide data are granular, going down to the level of a few city blocks in some places, but lagged by several years, so their use is more geared toward understanding the scope of the problem across the US, rather than making timely decisions to help city residents now. 

Eviction Lab’s new Eviction Tracking System, however, provides weekly updates on evictions by city and compares them to baseline data from past years. The researchers hope that the timeliness of this new data will allow for quicker action in the event that the US begins to see a wave of evictions once Covid eviction moratoriums are phased out.

But, due to a lack of standardization in eviction filings across the US, the Eviction Tracking System is currently available for only 11 cities, leaving many more places facing a high risk of eviction spikes out of the loop.

Each city included in the Eviction Tracking System shows rolling weekly and monthly eviction filing counts. A percent change is calculated by comparing current eviction filings to baseline eviction filings for a quick look at whether a city might be experiencing an uptick.

Timely US eviction data for a handful of cities is now available from the Eviction Lab. (Courtesy Eviction Lab)

The tracking system also provides a more detailed report on each city’s Covid eviction moratorium efforts and more granular geographic and demographic information on the city’s evictions.

Click to the above image to see a city-level eviction map, in this case for Pittsburgh. (Courtesy Eviction Lab)

As part of their Covid Resource, the Eviction Lab together with Columbia Law School professor Emily Benfer also compiled a scorecard for each US state that ranks Covid-related tenant protection measures. A total of 15 of the 50 US states plus Washington DC received a score of zero because those states provided little if any protections.

CityMetric talked with Peter Hepburn, an assistant professor at Rutgers who just finished a two-year postdoc at the Eviction Lab, and Jeff Reichman, principal at the data science research firm January Advisors, about the struggles involved in collecting and analysing eviction data across the US.

Perhaps the most notable hurdle both researchers addressed is that there’s no standardized reporting of evictions across jurisdictions. Most evictions are reported to county-level governments, however what “reporting” means differs among and even within each county. 

In Texas, evictions go through the Justice of the Peace Courts. In Virginia they’re processed by General District Courts. Judges in Milwaukee are sealing more eviction case documents that come through their courtroom. In Austin, Pittsburgh and Richmond, eviction addresses aren’t available online but ZIP codes are. In Denver you have to pay about $7 to access a single eviction filing. In Alabama*, it’s $10 per eviction filing. 

Once the filings are acquired, the next barrier is normalizing them. While some jurisdictions share reporting systems, many have different fields and formats. Some are digital, but many are images of text or handwritten documents that require optical character recognition programs and natural language processors in order to translate them into data. That, or the filings would have to be processed by hand. 

“There's not enough interns in the world to do that work,” says Hepburn.


Aggregating data from all of these sources and normalizing them requires knowledge of the nuances in each jurisdiction. “It would be nice if, for every region, we were looking for the exact same things,” says Reichman. “Instead, depending on the vendor that they use, and depending on how the data is made available, it's a puzzle for each one.”

In December of 2019, US Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Rob Portman of Ohio introduced a bill that would set up state and local grants aimed at reducing low-income evictions. Included in the bill is a measure to enhance data collection. Hepburn is hopeful that the bill could one day mean an easier job for those trying to analyse eviction data.

That said, Hepburn and Reichman caution against the public release of granular eviction data. 

“In a lot of cases, what this gets used for is for tenant screening services,” says Hepburn. “There are companies that go and collect these data and make them available to landlords to try to check and see if their potential tenants have been previously evicted, or even just filed against for eviction, without any sort of judgement.”

According to research by Eviction Lab principal Matthew Desmond and Tracey Shollenberger, who is now vice president of science at Harvard’s Center for Policing Equity, residents who have been evicted or even just filed against for eviction often have a much harder time finding equal-quality housing in the future. That coupled with evidence that evictions affect minority populations at disproportionate rates can lead to widening racial and economic gaps in neighborhoods.

While opening up raw data on evictions to the public would not be the best option, making timely, granular data available to researchers and government officials can improve the system’s ability to respond to potential eviction crises.

Data on current and historical evictions can help city officials spot trends in who is getting evicted and who is doing the evicting. It can help inform new housing policy and reform old housing policies that may put more vulnerable citizens at undue risk.

Hepburn says that the Eviction Lab is currently working, in part with the ACLU, on research that shows the extent to which Black renters are disproportionately affected by the eviction crisis.

More broadly, says Hepburn, better data can help provide some oversight for a system which is largely unregulated.

“It's the Wild West, right? There's no right to representation. Defendants have no right to counsel. They're on their own here,” says Hepburn. “I mean, this is people losing their homes, and they're being processed in bulk very quickly by the system that has very little oversight, and that we know very little about.”

A 2018 report by the Philadelphia Mayor’s Taskforce on Eviction Prevention and Response found that of Philadelphia’s 22,500 eviction cases in 2016, tenants had legal representation in only 9% of them.

Included in Hepburn’s eviction data wishlist is an additional ask, something that is rarely included in any of the filings that the Eviction Lab and January Advisors have been poring over for years. He wants to know the relationship between money owed and monthly rent.

“At the individual level, if you were found to owe $1,500, was that on an apartment that's $1,500 a month? Or was it an apartment that's $500 a month? Because that makes a big difference in the story you're telling about the nature of the crisis, right? If you're letting somebody get three months behind that's different than evicting them immediately once they fall behind,” Hepburn says.

Now that the Eviction Tracking System has been out for a week, Hepburn says one of the next steps is to start reaching out to state and local governments to see if they can garner interest in the project. While he’s not ready to name any names just yet, he says that they’re already involved in talks with some interested parties.

*Correction: This story initially misidentified a jurisdiction that charges $10 to access an eviction filing. It is the state of Alabama, not the city of Atlanta. Also, at the time of publication, Peter Hepburn was an assistant professor at Rutgers, not an associate professor.

Alexandra Kanik is a data reporter at CityMetric.