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New bar / restaurant

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Thursday 3 July 2003 12.49pm
I have lived in the SE1 area for about 4 years. I am seriously considering taking the lease on the bar / restaurant on Tooley st that is currently shut down. It is the place next to the bike shop, close to London Bridge tube, opposite Hays galleria. My gut feeling is that it could be turned into something very good for not only the locals but also for the influx of new workers that the developments on Tooley St will bring.

Does anyone have any thoughts or any ideas to what sort of bar / restaurant would suit the area and what you would like to see done with it. I am open to suggestions.

Thursday 3 July 2003 2.58pm
A nice comfy bar with good food and djs. The area is screaming out for it.
I think there are a few budding dj's out there in SE1 that would like to have a go on the wheels of steel in a local bar...
Thursday 3 July 2003 3.47pm
That place used to be Antony Worrall Thompson's old joint (I forget the name) and then had a short life going by another forgettable name (the Blue Olive or something?).

I recall that it is an extremely noisy space: the railway rumbles very loudly above, and the vaults (or are they arches?) bounce the drinkers/eaters sound around. So, great if you're aiming for a shouting type youngsters pub, but not if you're thinking of setting up a quieter, more intimate venue.
Friday 4 July 2003 5.10pm
this area (se1) has NO decent "gastro pubs" at all unlike any most other urban areas like this one.
A decent gastro pub would be most welcome
Friday 4 July 2003 9.35pm
Study the demographics very carefully before you do anything.
Work out who your customers are, before you decide the cuisine.

1.) Residents
The place is poorly located to serve the "real" locals, ie the residents further down Tooley Street towards Tower Bridge, and those who live behind the viaduct in the Bermondsey High Street area.
Tower Bridge is well served by Wetherspoon and several other restaurants in Shad Thames - Browns opened this week in Tea Trade Wharf and is excellent.
As to Bermondsey, in 17 years of going under the viaduct in a car, I have seen only a dozen people walk through it in total, it is an unpleasant experience. So basically almost no locals.

2) Drive-by
The parking is horrendous all around that area, so you will get virtually no drive-by trade, unless new car parks are built.

3) Office Workers
This is probably your best bet. More London and other new buildings will create large numbers of daytime customers. But they will dry up after 6.30. In the evening you will get competition from the well-established wine bar under London Bridge and the other restaurants around there .

4) Tourists
There are quite a few tourists wandering around, but the vast majority are in groups visiting the various attractions such as World War II and the London Dungeon. There are few hotels in the vicinity, so you will get little evening tourist trade.

My advice is check on:

1) Exactly why the previous restaurants/bars on that site have failed. They were high-quality gastro-pubs/wine bars etc. and they died.

2) Why other restaurants around them failed - there was a very classy french restaurant Le Truffle Noir almost opposite which has disappeared. Also why the restaurant opposite in the basement of Hays Galleria recently changed from Italian to French.

3) See which restaurants have survived longest and what is their secret, for instance the Peruvian restaurant in Tooley Street has been there at least 17 years and is still going although I have never been in it and I have never seen more than 2-3 people in there at any one time.

My own choice would be an ethnic restuarant.
The Thai restaurant in Hays galleria has been a great success, whereas its predecessor, a US barbecue style place, failed.
There are two long-lived successful Chinese restaurants in Tooley Street, although their food is very iffy. A really good HK restaurant would knock them out.
The Italian and the Indian restaurants on Tower Bridge approach have also survived 17 years.

However, there is no Japanese noodle bar for miles.
I would do a franchise with the Noto Noodle Bar on the highwalk next to Guildhall in the City to open up on your site. They are phenomenally successful, even to 10.30 in the evening midweek. The food is excellent and they are good value for money. Their appeal to office workers is very strong and they are becoming very trendy. Newest one I have seen is in Eastcheap - the Japanese Canteen. Doing great business.

Or a sushi bar..

As for marketing, I would try to do a deal with the London Dungeon to take advantage of all those lovely potential customers queuing up for hours in droves just 50 feet away.. that alone could keep you in clover..

In fact, if you are not interested in going the ethnic route, why not amalgamate with the Dungeon to become their restaurant !

Also, I would have the place fungshuied - I believe it is on the site of a WWII bomb shelter which received a direct hit and many people (?200) died horribly. Perhaps the site is jinxed. Couldn't do any harm to placate the ghosts !

Also go and talk to More London and see what restaurants they have planned for the complex - their competition could wipe you out !

Why not just open something in More London yourself anyway?

Good luck !

Post edited (04 Jul 03 23:03)
Saturday 5 July 2003 3.55pm
if you are interested in A3 properties that are situated within the local community (rather than the tourist/commuter belt), you could look at an A3 that is currently on the market on Tower Bridge Road.
Monday 7 July 2003 8.57am
Charles and others.

Thanks very much for the extensive feedback. It is much appreciated. You're right - getting the correct formula is crucial and studying why previous restaurants have failed is a must. I really do think that creating a place that is suited to office workers is the way forward. There are many businesses that have failed along Tooley St over the years, but in terms of influx of office workers, that is going to happen over the next 6 months to a year, I don't think the area has ever seen such a huge potential market.

Thanks again

Monday 7 July 2003 4.26pm
I have a friend who was running The Masons Arms in Battersea Park, and also the Stonemasons Arms in Hammersmith.
He has bought the site that used to house the Honest Cabbage in Bermondsey St and is in the process of setting this up as an independent pub that will aim to have a real local community feel.
Knowing his previous ventures well (perhaps too well!!) I don't think anyone will be disappointed.
I know that good decent food will be a focus, but in addition, he is converting the downstairs to provide a room that during the week will show modern films as soon after their cinema release as he can get them.
I'm not sure whether this would detract from you opening a bar as well - the more the merrier I say, but I think it is certainly a sign that things are looking up.
Current estimates are that the bar will be open at the end of July/beginning of August.
The sooner the better to be honest.
Monday 7 July 2003 5.01pm
I tend to agree with the posts that have said that's not a great location. I went there once when it was the Blue Olive (or whatever) and it wasn't great. It's unattractive there and the atmosphere in those bars close to London Bridge is very 'suity' - even a quick walk to the Leather Exchange is enough to make the atmosphere less city.

As a local I wouldn't rush to go there, more interested in the Bermondsey Kitchen, Scotia or the George for the garden, Leather Exchange, Market Porter etc etc off river - and the Garrison when that opens will be given a try (ex Honest Cabbage).

If it's office workers you want then fine, but the place will be dead by 9pm and weekends.

I thought Tanya was right, a Hoxton Bar & Kitchen or the bar next door, the Blue, vibe would be great especially if the food was as good as the Eagle on Farringdon Road but I don't see it happening there. There is a shortage of live music or DJ bars in SE1.

There's an A3 riverside space next to the Globe Pizza Express that's available and you only have to read the 'What do tourists do in the evening' thread to see the opportunity there.

Anyway, just been past it (Tooley St site) and it looks like they have started tidying it up, is it still available?

Monday 7 July 2003 8.53pm
I would agree with most of the comments above. We did look at this site as a possible new venture several months ago. The quoted rent + rates under the existing lease were very expensive - not surprising the previous ventures failed.

It is a large site and you would need to fill it in the evenings as well as lunchtime to make it work. Although the number of office workers coming in to the area is increasing, so is the competition.

I would not touch it with a bargepole at the rent/rates we were quoted. As others have suggested, there are other options in the area. The river front one is a better bet if you have got deep pockets!

Charles Tyler

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