Industry news round-up: March 18, 2013

Asahi Lounge at Madame GeishaOur weekly round-up of industry news for the week to March 18, 2013

Eclectic buys leading Brighton bar
Eclectic Clubs & Bars has bought leading Brighton cocktail bar Madame Geisha but intends to continue running it in its present form. The 300-capacity Japanese-inspired venue, which is open six nights a week until 3am, has established itself as a successful business from student nights early in the week to solid weekend trading. Covering three floors, it was opened over four years ago in the East Street quarter by Damian Frizzell, Matthew Dimmack and Jennifer Anderson Mann. The top floor is known as the Asahi Lounge (pictured). Click here for more at

Industry pays tribute to Henry Besant
Tributes have been paid around the world to Henry Besant, a bar and drinks industry legend, who has died aged 40. From Britain to Mexico, he is remembered for his passion, enthusiasm and generosity and the inspiration and support he gave to everyone he worked with. Henry worked in the bar industry for over 20 years, running venues such as Mas Café and 57 Jermyn Street through to The Lonsdale and Green & Red as well as bars at St Martin’s Lane and Sanderson hotels and the Trafalgar Hotel. With Dré Masso, he formed consultancy the Worldwide Cocktail Club and developed Olmeca Altos tequila. Click here for more at

Barworks sells bar to Mama Group
The Hoxton Bar and Kitchen in east London, which opened in 1998, has been sold by Barworks to Mama Group which operates music venues such as The Borderline and The Forum in London and The Ritz in Manchester. Marc Francis-Baum, one of the founding partners of Barworks, said: “We are delighted to have sold the venue to a like-minded company that have such expertise in the music arena. Our focus is now on developing our new cocktail bar venture, 5cc, supporting our eight-strong portfolio of bars and growing The Diner group.”

Bartenders to switch continents with Auchentoshan
Bartenders in the UK have a chance to work in the hottest new bar in New York City in the latest Auchentoshan Switch competition. The competition is seeking one bartender from Europe, including Britain, who will work for two weeks in The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog in Manhattan. At the same time, bartenders from across North America will compete for a chance to work at the Nightjar in Old Street, London. The bartender talent search is organised under the banner of Auchentoshan Lowland single malt Scotch whisky. Click here for more at

New MD to drive growth for Hi-Spirits
Leading UK drinks company Hi-Spirits is stepping up growth after appointing Dan Bolton as managing director. He will join in May after previously heading wine importer Louis Latour Agencies and will look after day-to-day operations, freeing up the time of co-founders Jeremy and Sue Hill to focus on innovation, marketing and further development. Click here for more at

Rope challenge to promote liqueur in bars
Premium South African cream liqueur brand Amarula has launched a new campaign, African Ties, to raise awareness of the brand in on-trade outlets. Rolled out by UK distributor Cellar Trends, it will see dedicated brand experience teams visit on-trade establishments around the UK, including London, Brighton, Cardiff, Birmingham and Newcastle, and invite consumers to take part in a simple but engaging challenge. Using a larger version of the signature rope on the neck of Amarula bottles, people will be asked to tie a knot without removing their hands from the rope for the chance to win prizes.

Cocktail competition launched for Coco Lopez
Bartenders and mixologists are being challenged to create rum cocktails including a Piña Colada in this year’s Coco Lopez Cocktail Challenge. A prize of £1,000 is on offer for the winner of the competition which is being run by Bennett Opie, distributor of cream of coconut Coco Lopez with blender brand Hamilton Beach and El Dorado Rum. Ten finalists will be chosen by a panel of judges to compete at The Liar’s Club in Manchester in May. Click here for more at

Inception Group reveals plans for Soho site
The Inception Group has revealed plans to transform the former Bureau members’ club in Soho, London, into an “underground boîte inspired by the disco movement”. With a cool and quirky interior and nods to 1970s Manhattan, Disco London will celebrate disco, featuring choreographed routines from singers and dancers as well as nightly live performances from musicians. Guests will be greeted on arrival in a Pan Am-inspired lounge by air stewardesses who will issue boarding passes and direct guests into the nightclub through aeroplane doors. The Inception Group’s other sites are Barts, Maggie’s and Bunga Bunga in London.

Highland Park LokiNordic god inspires complex new whisky
Highland Park in the Orkneys has released a 15-year-old limited-edition single malt named Loki after the mischievous Norse god. Bottled at 48.7 per cent ABV, it is the second in The Valhalla Collection of four unique whiskies from Highland Park, taking inspiration from legendary Nordic gods. Loki has classic traces of sweetness and spice, but it has been matured in both traditional Spanish sherry casks and also some heavily peated casks, giving it a smoky punch, while retaining a light colour.

Cocktail serves promoted for Bootlegger spirit
Six signature cocktail serves have been developed for Prohibition-style spirit Bootlegger for promoting to bars across the UK. They have been created by Drinks company Halewood International to support the roll-out of the clear unaged grain spirit which is inspired by the drinks of the American Prohibition era. After being launched five months ago, Bootlegger has secured more than 150 listings in on-trade outlets including Harvey Nichols’ bars, G1 Group’s bars in Glasgow and Love & Liquor, Oxo Tower and Drake & Morgan Group bars in London. Click here for more, including recipes, at

Alhambra beers receive push after new contract
Beer specialist The Morgenrot Group has signed a five-year rolling contract with the Mahou-San Miguel Group to be exclusive distributor of Spain’s Alhambra beer range. The five-strong range will see increased focus and investment in 2013 such as nationwide sampling activity, including the Taste of London festival in June, social and consumer media campaigns, and a competition to find the UK’s favourite tapas venue. Activities this year have already included a Tapas Thursday promotion in various restaurants, bars and pubs to celebrate Andalusia Day on February 28.

Trial under way to expand Best Bar None
The Best Bar None scheme, which promotes responsible management and operation of licensed premises to improve the nightlife in town centres, is being extended beyond bars, clubs and pubs to include restaurants for the first time. It is being trialled in Woking where categories in its annual awards will now include Best Food Led Pub and Best Restaurant. The scheme involves local authorities and police and is sponsored by Miller Brands UK.

Operator plans UK’s first dedicated cava bar
Spanish bar and restaurant group Camino is to open the UK’s first dedicated cava bar at its new restaurant Camino San Pablo in the City of London in May. The Blackfriars Lane site, which will be the group’s fourth offering in the capital, will specialise in high-quality tapas dishes and Spanish wines in an environment that aims to bring the spirit of Spain to the UK. DJs will perform several nights a week from a crow’s nest DJ booth. Beneath the restaurant, the Copa de Cava will offer around 25 different cavas alongside a seafood and charcuterie menu.

Glamorous new bar planned for hotel
A new bar will open in April as part of the £40million renovation of the Great Northern Hotel between King’s Cross and St Pancras International stations in London. The GNH Bar will take up almost the entire ground floor and open directly onto the new western concourse of King’s Cross station and onto Pancras Road. The decadent interior will feature striking glass chandeliers, a central polished pewter island bar, mirrored glass ceilings inspired by French railway restaurants and a small private mezzanine lounge overlooking the bar.

Industry reports sales uplift for February
Britain’s leading bar, pub and restaurant groups enjoyed a boost in sales in February after poor trading in January. Collective like-for-like sales were up 3.3 per cent on the same month last year, with total sales, including the impact of new site openings, up 6.1 per cent, according to latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker figures. Sales were helped by school half-term holidays being staggered over two weeks. Poor weather in January led to the 25 operators in the sample seeing a 2.4 per cent drop in like-for-like sales compared to January 2012.

Winning brewers announced by SIBA
Sixty local brewers have been recognised as winners in the SIBA National Beer Competition 2013. The Lamb Brewery Oatmeal Stout from Convivial London Pubs, Black Goldbottled beer from Cairngorm Brewery Company and Wills Neck best bitter from Quantock Brewery were named the SIBA Supreme Champions 2013 in keg, bottled beer and cask beer respectively. All Bronze, Silver and Gold award winners received their certificates and trophies on stage at BeerX in Sheffield last week from actor and brewer Neil Morrissey. For the full list of winners, visit

Manchester mixologist wins G’Vine heat
Jamie Jones, a mixologist with Manchester-based consultancy The Liquorists, has won the Manchester preliminary heat in this year’s Gin Connoisseur Program for G’Vine Gin. Held last week at Epernay in Manchester city centre, it attracted leading bartenders from across the north-west. For more on the competition, visit

Craft beer festival planned for Birmingham
A new festival celebrating craft beer is to be held in Birmingham this summer. The Birmingham Beer Bash will be at the Bond Company, a former canalside warehouse on Fazeley Street in Digbeth, on July 26 and 27. Over 100 cask and keg beers will be available across three bars, with the opportunity to meet the brewers behind them, take part in tutored tastings, and learn about aspects of the brewing process. The headline sponsor is Purity Brewing Co in Warwickshire.

New beer and juice drink sponsors marathon
Foster’s Radler, the new lemon juice and beer drink from Heineken, is to be the main sponsor and official beer of this year’s Brighton Marathon on April 14. Every entrant who crosses the Madeira Drive finishing line will be given a chance to sample the new product which will also be available to race spectators and supporters in the Foster’s bar at the Brighton Marathon Beach Village.

Master distiller appointed for Bombay Sapphire
Bombay Sapphire has announced that Nik Fordham, an experienced distiller who has worked on Beefeater Gin, has been appointed master distiller. He will oversee production at the new distillery under construction in Laverstoke Mill, Hampshire, due to open later this year. As well as crafting the gin and managing its production team, he will be responsible for quality assurance.

ALMR welcomes Lucky Voice as member
The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers has welcomed karaoke operator Lucky Voice into membership, increasing membership numbers to 126 retail companies nationwide. The company operates three karaoke bars and five franchised operations across the UK as well as supplying karaoke systems to bars, pubs and clubs. Lucky Voice managing director Nick Thistleton said: “The hospitality sector is an ever-evolving landscape, and a strong partnership is paramount when facing the various challenges that arise within our industry,”

Devon bar put on the market
Huntley & Partners is marketing the freehold interest on Paddy’s Bar, a fully licensed freehouse in Paignton, Devon. The Grade II-listed premises comprise a self-contained bar area with kitchen, storerooms, open-air patio and cellar on the ground floor with private accommodation on the first and second floors including two ensuite bedsitting rooms and a self-contained two bedroom flat. Offers over £150,000 are invited.

Interactive party to promote whisky cocktails
The first of this year’s For One Night Only events for Monkey Shoulder Whisky is to be held this Thursday (March 21) to celebrate whisky cocktails as part of a creative, interactive experience for consumers. Global brand ambassador Dean Callan will present his take on the Manhattan cocktail, the Malt Jockey. The ticketed event will be held at a secret London location and those attending have been promised “an evening at the races with a difference” including remote-control horses on a giant hay-bale course. Visit

Exotic ingredients feature in Nightjar’s new menu
The Nightjar in Old Street, London, has launched a new cocktail menu created by bar manager Marian Beke, head bartender Luca Cinalli and their team. It is characterised by its huge range of ingredients from around the world sourced in many cases for their health-giving properties, as well as a new section of lower-alcohol alternatives. Featured ingredients include rare fruits such as the longan berry, durian and yuzu as well as rooibos espresso, oolong and pu-erh tea, umami foam and homemade umeshu.

Brewer commits to using only Scottish barley
Tennent Caledonian has announced a commitment to using only Scottish barley in the production of its core portfolio of beer brands from 2013 onwards. Phased in since the start of the year, the pledge will see the business purchase about 25,000 metric tons of barley from Scottish farmers this year alone. It follows the success of Caledonia Best, the brewer’s first beer to be brewed exclusively with Scottish barley which was launched in late 2011 and is now the fastest-growing beer brand in the Scottish on-trade.

blackwell rumJamaican rum joins Mangrove portfolio
Drinks company Mangrove has been appointed UK distributor for Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum, created by music impressario Chris Blackwell. Carl Stephenson from Blackwell Rum said: “Against a positive backdrop of rum’s ever-increasing popularity and bartenders looking for authentic choices, we are delighted to announce that Blackwell Rum joins the dynamic Mangrove UK team. We believe Mangrove has the national reach and also maintains the personal connection with the key bartenders to help take Blackwell Rum to this exciting next level.”

Cocktail safari draws in leading bars
Bars, restaurants, cafes and hotels around Regent Street in London’s West End will join forces in April for the Regent Street Cocktail Safari. Over one evening, people can taste the signature cocktails and small plates that each venue has developed. It is as an extension of the Regent Street Food Safari. Venues involved include Mash, Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel, Aqua, Gaucho, The Living Room, Sartoria, Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton, Le Meridien Piccadilly, Dirty Martini and Inamo. Visit

Frozen food saves pubs money, says report
New research by the University of Salford has identified that using frozen food could save an average UK pub over £100,000 a year. After analysing cost centres for the 10 most popular meals sold over the course of one week in a pub, it found that, in comparison to using fresh or chilled, a total saving of £50,000 could be achieved per year by opting for frozen ingredients which increased to £115,000 if using ready-made frozen meals.

Sound and light specialist runs free workshops
Batmink, the UK trade distributor for sound and lighting, is holding a week of free professional workshops and training to mark its 30th anniversary. They are designed to provide hands-on experience and core skills, presented by representatives from manufacturers such as Pioneer, Martin Audio, Cloud, Le Maitre, Shure, Audio Technica and Sennheiser. Call 01458 833186 or email

Online campaign spreads for Carlsberg
Carlsberg, one of the world’s leading beer brands, has released its new online campaign, “Carlsberg puts friendship to the test”, bolstering the beer’s positioning of “That Calls for a Carlsberg.” Asking “How far would you go for a friend?”, the new online film shows a real-life drama caught on hidden camera. Click here to watch on YouTube.

New ad campaign launched for Stella Artois
Stella Artois will be back on national TV this spring with the UK launch of a new campaign starting today (March 18). “Quest” is the “timeless story of one man’s pursuit of genuine beauty” and is the latest episode in the “She is a Thing of Beauty” global campaign. It will run throughout March and April across TV, cinema and video on demand. Click here to watch on YouTube.

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