There has been a pub called the Hare & Hounds on this site since the middle of the 19th century, but this particular structure was built in 1907. It’s a traditional Edwardian red brick pub, and Grade II listed. We have to take great care of it any time we do refurbishments – it’s a beautiful old building that we are looking after.
Pub: Hare & Hounds
Address: High St, Kings Heath, Birmingham
Owners: Adam Regan, Matt Beck, John Nash
Number of staff: 30
Annual turnover: £1.4m
Wet:entertainment split: 80:20
GPs: 58% on drink, 60% on entertainment
It’s expensive to take care of, but it’s worthwhile – it’s a lovely space, and in a lovely spot.
We’ve had the pub for 10 years now and have a lease with Greene King.
It was pretty rundown when we took it on. It was a managed house and it wasn’t in very good condition, and the live music element of the building had been put on the back burner. The venue upstairs was pretty unloved and had terrible sound and carpet in there.
The previous 20 years before it had been a really thriving music and comedy venue. The band UB40 did their first gig here in 1979. Frank Skinner started his comedy career here in the ’80s.
In the 15 years before I had it, the pub had become a run-down old man’s pub, it was full of fruit machines and TVs, and people were smoking in pubs back then, so there used to be thick smoke everywhere.
It was used all day, but never really busy – it just used to tick along.
The brewery wanted someone to come in and do something different, and obviously we knew the heritage of the place and thought we could turn it back into a thriving live music and events venue, which we have done gradually over 10 years.
When we first came in, we spent around £200,000 because it was in a bad state, and over the years we have spent hundreds of thousands on it. In January we refurbished the front bar, which cost around £50,000. We are refurbishing the outside areas.
We are constantly investing in some part of the building, but also spending a lot of money on production – we just upgraded our sound system in the main venue to one of the best in the world. We have production standards here that are very, very high.
I have been a promoter and a DJ in Birmingham for more than 20 years. I started off as a DJ and started promoting parties and club events, and was involved with running a record label. I ended up going all over the world to festivals and clubs, and getting a lot of good experience.
I wanted to start a club night in Birmingham that represented what I liked about the clubs I saw around the world. I started a club night in 2000 called Left Foot, which is in a place called the Custard Factory in Birmingham, and that’s been going now for 17 years.
We bought the first pub 11 years ago, which has since been sold, and then the Hare & Hounds the following year.
It’s very, very mixed, we are in a suburb of Birmingham called Kings Heath which is about four miles south of the city centre. It’s quite a vibrant place, you have got a lot of young, cool kids that hang out and come to the music gigs, but you’ve also got quite a working-class community around the area as well.
It’s quite aspiring, people are moving to Kings Heath now because of the music scene and the night life, and the restaurants and pub scene.
There’s a real mixture of people and clientele because we do virtually every type of music you can imagine. It can be anything – as we do 14-plus gigs, with 14-year-old music fans coming on certain nights of the week, right the way through to people in their 60s who might come and see one of the shows, or just to simply use the pub downstairs. A real mix of ages, races and people from all walks of life.
We are a company made up through shareholders, who are all involved in the business. My two business partners are John Nash, production manager, who has been doing sound engineering for many years, and Matt Beck – who has only come on board in the past couple of years. He has been programme manager here and has now become a shareholder. He has 10 years’ experience as a music promoter and a DJ.
The general manager and assistant manager, they’ve been here for years. Stefan, who is general manager, started here when he was 16 as a glass collector, and he has worked his way up, and assistant manager Sarah was here before I took over. She was one of the members of staff who stayed, and she has worked her way up too.
We have a really consistent team that has been with us a long time. It gives us a family feeling. People feel like it’s a friendly place.
We don’t do food as a regular thing but we do food pop-ups and street-food events on the road adjacent to the pub. We do street closures and work with a local company, which is an award-winning street-food operator. We do events in the back bar as well as with local traders.
It’s been great. For the street closures we often have a couple of thousand people turn up on a Sunday and they hang out in the street, eating food, listening to DJs, we often have market stalls as well. It just creates a really nice community atmosphere.
Pop-ups are great as different operators come in and sell around 45 covers. Customers come in, have a nice evening and a three-course meal. It’s very relaxed and gives people the chance to try different food.
We work with a local brewery called Purity and sell at least four or five of their products from IPAs to their latest lager as well, which is more of an American-style hoppy lager. We offer a range of their ales from dark to light and hold events with them as well.
We also have our own Hare & Hounds-branded lager and golden ale and have just started selling some craft cans through local brewers as well. It’s a pretty wide range really, obviously we are tied, so we are limited on what we can and can’t buy. Our best-seller would be the Purity Mad Goose.
We do a lot of live music, but we also do club shows. We have two venues upstairs, one with 250 capacity and one 150 capacity so we get a lot of up-and-coming bands and artists, but also more established ones wanting to do smaller shows.
From the pop world, we have had people like Ed Sheeran play here three times in the early part of his career, Ellie Goulding, rock band Alt-J, as well as a lot of soul and jazz people.
Tonnes of indie bands start their careers here, and go on to play at the bigger venues. We are the starting point for a lot of bands and hopefully keep them when they move on to bigger venues.
In the touring season, which runs from September through to Christmas, we can have as many as 14 shows in a week, those are really hectic weeks where we have got a show in both venues every night, seven days a week.
In the summer, we don’t have as many shows because of the festivals, so we tend to focus on the weekends. About 99% of the shows are ticketed events, with the average price being £10. There’s a real mixture of events – live entertainment is our main source of income.
Apart from the live music, the pub puts on a quiz every Wednesday, which does really well too.
We are refurbishing at the moment, and are looking to launch the new area in the next week or so. We are just going to carry on doing what we are doing, but I think the next stage for us will be to buy a bigger venue as well because, at the moment, we are putting on gigs in other people’s venues all the time. Once you get over the 250 capacity, those shows have to go in other venues. The aim would be a 300-600 capacity venue in the city centre.
What makes it special?
The pub has got a really good community feeling, but we attract a lot of people from around the country as well be-cause of its reputation as a music venue.
It always has a nice mixture of people, and I think the team makes it very special because we have all been here together a long time, we all care, and we are passionate about what we do.
It’s a beautiful old building, you don’t see many of its kind anymore. It’s Grade II listed, full of old tiles, and old features, that you just don’t see that much any more.
Then you go upstairs and you have two state-of-the-art venues with top-quality production – so it’s quite a unique place.