Small Bar Cardiff closure ‘a strategic decision’ says Left Handed Giant boss

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Popular haunt: Small Bar Cardiff was a hot spot for beer geeks in the city
Popular haunt: Small Bar Cardiff was a hot spot for beer geeks in the city
Small Bar, the popular craft beer bar in Cardiff, is to close its doors, as the team behind the venue seeks to focus on its new brewpub venture and expansion in Bristol.

The venue, which is run by the team behind Left Handed Giant Brewery in Bristol, was opened around 20 months ago, but is now being replaced by Beelzebub,​ a new bar by local Cardiff brewery Crafty Devil.

Speaking to The Morning Advertiser​, Left Handed Giant’s managing director Bruce Gray said the decision to close the venue was born out of a desire to “streamline” the company ahead of opening a new brewpub​ in Bristol early in 2019.

“We have grown fairly heavily over the course of the past two years with Cardiff, and with the brewery and brewpub coming up, I have felt stretched – that's the honest truth of it,” he said. "Companies can be more focused on growth than the health of the people within them at times, and my motivation from day one has always been that we keep a line of sight with every person in the company.”

Streamlining the business 

“We never took an active strategy to sell the bar,” he continued. “We had a conversation with Crafty Devil over a beer and they mentioned that the site they had planned to move into in was teetering on falling through, and that got my mind thinking that there was potentially an opportunity for them and for us to streamline what we are doing.”

“I would never have made the decision to sell the bar if it was not to someone who was going to carry on the ethos of what we built into the premises. If I thought for a second we would have to sell it to a normal bar operator or not a bar operator at all we would have just kept going.”

Left Handed Giant will continue to operate its Small Bar Bristol site, and is currently starting work on its new 4,000sq ft brewpub site in the city, after raising more than £1m in crowdfunding earlier this year.

Gray said that the close proximity of Left Handed Giant’s brewery, the new brewpub and Small Bar Bristol was a factor in deciding to pull out of the Cardiff bar scene.

Appealing structure 

“When I looked at the potential structure of the company without the Cardiff bar in it we had three sites within a one-mile walk of each other, and that is a structure that really appeals to me,” he said. “I want to be able to come to work in the morning and come to every site within one day, and be able to stop by and speak to people, as opposed to having to leave the city or manage people remotely.”

“I appreciate that we could take more people on but, ultimately, when I set the company up, I wanted to have contact with every person in it, and I didn't want to be managing managers who were then managing people at the front end. Most companies focus on growth and build in layers of management, but that is not the style of company that I enjoy running.”

Gray denied that the closure of Small Bar Cardiff was a financially motivated decision, and stated that it should not be seen as a negative reflection on the city’s beer scene.

“The bar has done really well and has met expectations for where we thought it would be a year and a half into the business,” he said. “I appreciate that people's first assumption is that there are financial reasons behind it, but my feedback would be that the Cardiff beer scene has been a growing, thriving and vibrant scene, and I don't think that us closing down should be seen as a sign of doom and gloom for the future.

“For us, it is a strategic decision to streamline what we are doing and not a reflection upon the economy of the city centre. There have been but two or three people bemoaning the death of the Cardiff beer scene, but that has not been our experience at all.”

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