David Layton is the founder and Managing Director of The BAR Project who launched the BRICK & LIQUOR brand of bars in South London in 2016. David approached Startup Direct in 2017 to fund the launch of the companies second venue in Clapham. Startup Direct are excited to be following their amazing startup story after getting a startup loan from the startup loan scheme to support their growth.
1) What inspired you to start your business?
After 12 years in the hospitality industry working from glass collector to managing director, my dream behind The BAR Project came from a simple desire to create great hospitality led brands. Over the past decade I’ve seen true hospitality experiences decline in favour of mass market corporate concepts which prioritise profitability over the customers experience. BRICK & LIQUOR – a neighbourhood cocktail bar concept – is the first of hopefully a number of brands which will be operated by The BAR Project. Thanks to Startup Direct and a number of angel investors, we have now opened our second venue within 11 months.
2) What issues have you overcome since starting up your business?
Our business model generates value in two ways. First, as you expect is the day-to-day operations of a popular bar and restaurant. Second, is the asset value created through the transformation of derelict sites up front. Whilst we had a lot of prior experience with the first element, tackling two major development projects proved a steep learning curve with problems such as; rogue contractors, delayed deliveries, loss of electricity, ceilings caving in – you name it! After two major projects we have learnt an enormous amount and in future we will now have a more standardised way (a.k.a. less stressfull) of rolling out our venues.
3) What successes have you had recently?
BRICK & LIQUOR | Tooting was recently named GQ’s ‘Bar of the Week’ – a rare accolade for a 60 capacity venue in suburban Zone 3 in London! I believe the award is a great reflection of the passion my team has for creating great experiences for our guests and also an indication of the level of demand that now exists for high quality hospitality on your doorstep.
4) What are your plans for the next 5 years?
The BAR Project will continue to launch hospitality led brands, with a focus on discerning non central locations. We have a firm belief that there’s a growing trend towards high-class, high-quality venues where you don’t need to trek into a city centre! The BRICK & LIQUOR brand in particular has received a great reception and we may expand it further if the right opportunities and properties come up.
5) What did Startup Direct teach you about starting up a business and the different types of funding for startups?
Startup Direct taught us invaluable lessons in how to articulate a robust and investment worthy business plan. Whilst my 3 business partners already provide a wealth of experience internally to the business in the areas of finance, marketing and company operations, engaging with Startup Direct was the first time we had to present our business externally to investors/lenders. After spending our first year focussing purely on the mirco-issues of our customers and their experience, being scrutinised by investors gave us a strong appreciation for the macro-issues and a laser sharp focus on the big-picture metrics and measures that matter.
6) What are your social media links/website URL?
Check us out on all of the below!
7) Have you been featured in any press?
Yes we are really proud that we have been featured in the below…
“When you can’t decide between a drink or dessert, have both. Down in Clapham, a New York-inspired lounge bar is serving a candied collection of creative cocktails from salted caramel martinis to key lime daiquiris.”
“Running with the neighbourhood bar vibe, they’re all about great cocktails, food to graze on whilst drinking and exceptional hospitality; it’s informal and fun and you still get table service.”
“BRICK & LIQUOR is bringing liquid magic to its south London ‘hood. In this hidden cocktail spot, the foundations of a thriving local haunt are built from exposed brickwork and the exposure of a new breed of legendary drinks.”
Wow, thanks so much for sharing your story with us David, we love following your startup journey.