Tim Bacon, who has been behind many of the UK’s most successful bars and restaurants, has died after a battle with cancer, aged 52.
After starting in the industry nearly 30 years ago as a bartender, Tim went on to be co-founder and chairman of Living Ventures which operates some of the best-known venues in Manchester and beyond. He has won numerous awards and other accolades for his contribution to the industry.
With co-founder Jeremy Roberts, Living Ventures opened The Living Room in Manchester in 1999, growing the cocktail bars to 34 sites before selling them in 2007 to Ultimate Leisure.
Tim’s businesses now operate 45 bars and restaurants, mostly in the north-west, with more in the pipeline. Living Ventures includes Australasia, Artisan and Manchester House in Manchester, The Alchemist cocktail bars in Manchester, Leeds and London, the national 14-strong Gusto restaurant group, and eight The Grill restaurants from Glasgow to London.
Tim and Jeremy also founded New World Trading Company which operates The Oast House in Manchester, Smugglers Cove and The Club House (pictured below) in Liverpool, The Trading House in London and the rapidly growing group of The Botanist bar-restaurants.
Jeremy, who is CEO of Living Ventures, said in a statement: “It is with incredible sadness that I have to announce the sad passing of Living Ventures chairman, Tim Bacon, who died suddenly but peacefully in his sleep on Friday night following a long illness.”
“Tim has had many enduring friendships with people in his private and professional life because of his vibrant, honourable and generous spirit.
“He gave his all to everything he did, especially to his family and his friends who were incredibly important to him. I will greatly miss him as we all will and I’ve lost a true friend.”
Social media have been filled with tributes to Tim since the news broke on Saturday evening, describing him as an inspiration, a great talent and a legend who helped to shape the bar and restaurant scene in the north-west and nationally.
Tributes were posted by leading industry figures, including Peter Marks, chief executive of bar and club operator The Deltic Group, who called Tim “one of the true visionaries of our sector”.
Robbie Bargh of global bar consultancy Gorgeous Group tweeted: “Tim Bacon brought lots of happiness to many, a true restaurateur, a mentor and a great friend – his cup was always overflowing! God bless.”
After growing up in Tasmania, Tim started out as an actor, having a lead role in 1980s Australian soap Sons & Daughters. He came to the UK in 1987 and started work as a bartender at the new TGI Friday’s in Covent Garden in London, where he became head bartender. After winning a national cocktail competition, he appeared on TV chat show Wogan.
He set up his own consultancy Bar Biz Training in 1989 but decided he wanted to run his own venues. In 1993, he opened JW Johnson’s in Deansgate which was a leading player in the development of the city’s bar scene. The site is now part of Living Ventures, home to The Botanist.
Tim and Jeremy came together in 1996 to develop the Mediterranean-style Via Vita bar-restaurants which grew to seven sites before being sold to Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries in 1998. With Dave Hinds, they also opened Life restaurants in Liverpool and Manchester, sold to Whitbread in 2000.
At Living Ventures, Tim and Jeremy helped to change the face of Britain’s bar scene with the development of The Living Room, which nurtured many of today’s leading bartenders and bar owners.
Living Ventures also developed bar concept Prohibition, sold to Ultimate Leisure in 2005. That same year, Tim and Jeremy bought the Est Est Est restaurant chain, converting it into their own Gusto bar-restaurants which are set to expand to a 15th site, in Birmingham, later this year.
Australasia, The Alchemist and The Oast House opened in 2011 – central to the success of Manchester’s Spinningfields development. The Alchemist is now in two locations in Manchester, two in Leeds (including Greek Street, pictured above) and one in London, with more in the pipeline in Liverpool and Birmingham.
With Dave Hinds, Tim was also behind Red Door bars in Chester and Liverpool, with another due to open soon in the basement of The Botanist in Deansgate.
Tim discovered he had advanced melanoma in 2014 after being first diagnosed with melanoma 16 years ago. He continued to work, opening the latest Gusto in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire two weeks ago.
Tim leaves two young children, Maya and Phoenix. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.