Rockwater, which fully opened in May 2021 following pandemic delays, is credited as being key in helping regenerate the Western seafront in Hove, East Sussex.
Founders Luke and Maeve Davis have created a social hub by the sea that appeals to a wide range of people, which has far exceeded trading expectations and has given the couple the confidence to open two more Rockwater sites in Poole, Dorset.
The site has three different offers, including a top floor terrace restaurant with retractable roof and amazing sea views. Rockwater’s al fresco offers are also impressive with six ‘Shacks by The Shore’ featuring a range of different food and drink offers.
It has been created from founder Davis’s ‘coffee and cocktails’ vision that you could do lots of different things in one building and be more than a bar/restaurant.
Rockwater is a community hub for all, providing something for everyone - from morning coffee on the deck to cocktails and a meal on its roof terrace and everything in between. Going beyond traditional hospitality, Rockwater offers a crafted wellness programme Rockwater Life, which sees everything from yoga classes to mens’ mental health talks available.
An excellent events programme is also offered including a chess club, art and craft activities, live music, comedy and quiz nights.
Rockwater has also established itself as a highly rated entertainment venue with a variety of celebrity as well as local acts on offer, with Al Murray and Norman Cook among those that have performed at the venue.
The Flying Handbag, Blackpool
The Flying Handbag, which was successfully relaunched by Daniel Thwaites in February 2020, has been and continues to be an integral part of the LGBTQ+ community in Blackpool.
The aim of its £600k refurbishment and relaunch in February 2020 was to enhance the site, which is part of one of the main party circuits in the town and a short walk from the promenade and Blackpool Tower, without losing its personality and character to continue to attract regulars and new customers to this legendary venue.
As well as a strong local LGBTQ+ customer base, this late-night party venue which offers entertainment seven days a week, is also popular with holidaymakers and those on hen and stag dos.
With its refurbishment, five zones were created at the site – a games area, dancefloor around its stage, dining area and two outdoor areas, with The Flying Handbag now offering three different customer experiences – daytime, early evening and late night.
The Flying Handbag has always been seen as a weekend venue and traded well during peak times, but since relaunch has also successfully driven midweek daytime trade and delivered strong financial results as well as excellent customer satisfaction.
Thwaites has shown with The Flying Handbag that they can run community pubs really well in a non-core market for them.
The Boat, Catherine de Barnes, Solihull
The Boat, which opened in May 2021 following Covid-19 delays to its launch, is the first site of Greene King’s new premium format Crafted Pubs and has been both a financial and customer hit since launch.
A ‘social haven’ has been created at The Boat to appeal to an affluent customer base, with a stylish but openly warm interior, premium food and drink offer, including a big focus on brunch, and all-year around gardens with cushioned seating, heaters, fire pits and an outside bar.
Although The Boat, which has seen a £1.4 million investment, offers a premium food experience, it also has a welcoming vibe for drinkers and a real community feel, including working with local businesses and supporting local charities and initiatives.
Its footfall driving food offer, includes sharing starter concept Stix and quality dry-aged steaks, produced it its own dry-ageing chamber. It also features pub classics, a la carte dishes, salads and pizzas with premium toppings.
The Boat’s drinks offer has also proved a hit with customers, featuring an interesting range of draught beers, including from a local brewery, cocktails, low/no drinks and a strong wine list.
Following the success of The Boat, Greene King is opening more Crafted Pub sites, which will help it grow market share in the premium market.
Crown Wharf, Stone
Crown Wharf, which is now the flagship brewery tap for brewer and pub company Joule’s and is the biggest project the company has ever done, is a unique “pride and joy” venue, with a rich history behind it.
This new-build multipurpose site, which is located by the canal in Stone, was five years in the making and finally launched in July last year. It has enjoyed big success since opening, with both strong trading and support from locals.
Crown Wharf has quickly established itself at the heart of the Stone community and has seen the Joule’s brand, which had been at the heart of the town with its brewery for 250 years, being reborn in the town 28 years after the brewery was closed by Bass. The site now stands in the shadow of the original brewery, with its main architectural inspiration coming from the original Joule’s warehouses next door.
Stone Ale was also reborn with the opening of the pub, a great initiative linking in with the history of the brewery.
Every design detail, has been pored over with interesting stories behind featured items, including pieces representing each of Joule’s pubs.
Not only does the site, which Joule’s invested around £3.5m creating, feature a wonderful beer hall with a striking, long bar, ‘board room’ private function space and wooden panelled snug, but it also has a hexagonal shell building for a community theatre and a shell building for a heritage centre, which will feature a Joule’s exhibition.
Linking to the theatre, which Joule’s will also use to host events, a wonderful theatre bar has been created.
Cahoots Ticket Hall and Control Room, London
Inception Group’s 1940s theme Ticket Hall & Control Room, whose strapline is ‘High Spirits, Scoundrels & Swing’ has successfully built on its Cahoots Underground bar, which opened in 2015, with Cahoots one of the company’s biggest site investments to date.
When the Kingly Court site next to its Underground bar became available it presented too good an opportunity for company founders Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling to pass up and the new bars were created.
The site has been a victory in terms of its wonderful, carefully curated design, great customer feedback, strong financial performance and innovative marketing strategies, which have included a creative ‘Win The Bar’ launch competition.
Impactful design details include a ‘Lost & Found’ board featuring photos and notices from the 1940s, a picture of King George VI and Queen Consort Elizabeth, army mess tins used to present food and cocktails served in interesting vessels, including Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn mugs.
The site, whose team members sport 1940s outfits and hairstyles and greet guests with a ‘What-ho’, has successfully established a broad customer base ranging from 20s to 80s, including tourists, corporates (just returning) and out of town visitors, with hopefully more international visitors returning this year too.
Drinks are crafted by the team’s talented bar team, who make the syrups and cordials used in cocktails as well as the bar’s own ‘Scoundrels Soda’ and blended spirit mix Cahooh.
The Control Room has also recently reintroduced live music back into its offer, with acts complimenting the 1940s theme and it also features a successful experiential/escape room style concept called ‘Bootlegger Breakout’.
Springwell Tap Room, Leeds
Last March North Brewing Co moved to its new brewery, tap room and head office site Springwell, which has seen a £2.5 million investment.
Unusually the taproom and brewery at the 21,000 sq ft site, located on the outskirts of the city are not separate, which creates a lovely experience for customers of drinking beers in the shadow of the tanks which have produced them.
The tap room, which opened last April, has synergies in its design with North Bars’ Leeds City Tap and original North Bar site. It offers an inclusive space for all, not just beer enthusiasts, including families, with a great community ethos across its customers, staff and local businesses.
North Brewing Co has successfully created an inviting space for people in Leeds to socialise and enjoy great drinks, including its beers and in-house crafted draught cocktails, and food, from its partner street food operators. An excellent range of events including live music, DJs, beer festivals, film and sport screenings, a Christmas market and art focused events have also successfully driven trade, as have hosting private parties and corporate groups.
The tap room is also a place for beer tourists to visit (North’s beers have a strong national and international following too), with brewery tours also available.
Brilliant pre-opening marketing tactics have also helped to drive the tap room’s success, including selling its Springwell Pils, named after the new site, in huge 99 can boxes, with the story generating national press.
- Check out the full list of finalists at the 2022 Publican Awards here.