Last Wednesday, the Britannia Arms Almaden held a private event celebrating its 25th anniversary, a huge accomplishment considering that 25 years is a lifetime in the restaurant and nightclub industries—and the Brit has managed to be successful in both arenas.
Back in 1988, when the place opened, it was serving a much more limited, strictly British menu—and for nightlife brought in bands that played traditional British and Irish music. Today, the menu has expanded to include American food, and the entertainment includes rock bands and DJs that spin hip-hop and Top 40. “There were a lot more Brits in the Bay Area when we first opened,” says co-owner Michael North. “We still have a lot of Brits, but we appeal to everybody.”
The Brit still fills a niche for Bay Area British ex-pats by serving common British pub food that’s not so common in the States, like shepherd’s pie, bangers, sticky toffee pudding and, of course, steak and kidney pie. “Because of trends in foods, not a lot of British pubs [in the United States] serve steak and kidney pies anymore. That’s one of the things that people drive miles for,” North says. There are a handful of other Britannia Arms in the South Bay, Capitola and Monterey, which are loosely affiliated, with some overlap in ownership and similarity in terms of menu and nightlife.
The club currently hosts live music every Friday and Saturday night, with karaoke on Wednesdays and Sundays, and DJs every Thursday. Tuesdays are reserved for a more distinctive British pub tradition: trivia night.
Some people know the Britannia Arms as the go-to location to watch soccer, hockey and other sporting events. During the World Cup or a Sharks home game, the Brit can get filled to capacity, and then some. What is truly remarkable is the way the club has given back to the community. For the past 15 years, for instance, the Brit has given turkeys to people around Thanksgiving and toys to children around Christmas. The club’s response to 9/11 was by far the most amazing. The Saturday after the tragedy, they raised $50,000 for Red Cross through sales and donations by patrons.
5027 Almaden Expwy; San Jose