Opposite the Britannia Gate entrance for Stamford Bridge, situated where the Fulham Road meets the Britannia Road, used to lie a well known watering hole amongst the Chelsea faithful.
Back in the forties when it was called The Britannia, our first ever supporters club was founded there, the Chelsea Supporters Away Club – now just The Chelsea Supporters Club. The pub changed hands a few times in the late nineties and has since gone under a few different names, The Black Rose, Rosies, and finally The Sofa So Bar. Over the past decade it’s followed the same fate as many other pubs in the area, and began a transition from being a proper pub to being a slightly poncey bar.
But matchdays were different, all the sofa’s were removed and stored away, tables and chairs too, to make enough room for as many Chelsea fans as they could fit in. The place was always packed, and from a couple of hours before the match until a couple of hours after it, it was always lively with fans singing songs about the club we love.
You’d walk in on a match day there was the Stage End just next to you on the left, where all the songs and atmosphere were generated from. Song after song, there was never a gap. TV companies trying to film in their, and similarly tourists with their camera’s would often be instructed, in not so polite terms, as to where they could stick them.
The ‘Bog End’ of the So used to have their flag stored by the old manager, who would stick it up on matchdays for them in their corner of the pub, the vinyl banners still hung at Stamford Bridge used to be stored in the So Bar too. When the owners changed the pub manager, they retained the old manager on matchdays as he knew how to operate the pub when we were at home, it was essential to the owners that they kept it a Chelsea pub if we were playing.
There was a time when chanting was never monitored or restricted, but slowly the police started getting involved, and the bouncy got banned supposedly because of the structural support of the place. Reasons like this, coupled with tourists and JCL’s, meant a lot of the old regulars started going to different places, but it was always rammed and always loud.
Some say it became too touristy, but if you walked past pre or post match you’d always be able to hear the So Bar in full voice, it was always rocking with songs. As a home fan it used to get me up for matches, away fans would have to walk past there on their way back to the tube station, the location was perfect.
Singing Ten Men Went To Mow in their was always a great way to get you up for a match, everyone crouching down till the end of Nine Men, and then rising up for the start of Ten Men. Singing ‘You Are My Chelsea’ with beers going everywhere and everyone jumping into each other was always another highlight. If you ever walked in during the week you’d notice the beer stains on the ceiling too. The Stage End was perfect for Chelsea Alouette and Chelsea Ranger too, although now it’ll be more suited to a toff singing about how one wishes to become a Sloane Ranger.
As I say it was a bit poncey, when it started to die down on a Saturday, they’d chuck everyone out, get the sofa’s back in, and re-open for the evening ready for the usual clientele, but they’d always let us all in for a couple of hours first, it was about that sort of time after the Newcastle match had finished that there was still a good crowd of us in there, singing non stop, unaware that it was the last time we would be able to. Little over one week after the departure of Carlo Ancelotti, the famous So Bar suffered the same fate as the ex blues manager, it got the axe. Less then four weeks after acquiring the keys, the place has re-opened as Kona Kai, an upmarket cocktail bar for the rah rah’s and the Sloane Rangers.
The So Bar had been on the market for a year when it was purchased by a group who also run The Sugar Cane in Clapham. The whole inside of The So Bar was stripped out, toilets included, and renovated. All the walls, ceilings, the bar, the lights, the interior has changed beyond recognition, only the location of the bar, toilets and a few booths remain the same.
Currently, Kona Kai does not have any draught beer, it has a selection of bottled beers and a large cocktail menu, it could not be more different from The So Bar. If there is draught beer to be re-introduced, it will be a more upmarket selection.
The owners plans are to slowly filter in a different sort of fan. They have said that there’s a good chance they won’t open for West Brom and Norwich, as they don’t want any confusion with people assuming they can pack in and have a sing song.
Singing is now a definite no, football shirts may also not be allowed (it seems that’ll be the case after matches at least), the capacity will be about 100-150, about half of what it used to be. Due to the expense of decorations there will no doubt be a close eye on controlling the crowd, sit or stand, but do it quietly seems like it’ll be their view. They are targeting a very different crowd to those previously welcomed.
CFCnet remembers years ago when this was posted on our forums It holds some good suggestions for Kona Kai:
Geoffrey, wherever you may be,
We really ought to get home for tea,
P’raps we’ll watch the highlights on TV
I’ll meet you by the Rolls at three.
Stage End Stage End give us a sonnet.
So after over 70 years as a place for Chelsea fans to frequent for a matchday beer, one of our most famous pubs has re-aligned itself with Ron Gourlay’s ideologies, and eliminated the usual matchgoing fans.