Words by Samuel Benson (ABV Media)
Photography by ABV Media
In the beginning there was man. Man got thirsty, invented tasty beverages and then began an industry around this activity so he could get together with his fellow drinks-creators and vote on who makes the best one! We call this an award ceremony. And, while there may be a few in our industry out there today, nobody seems to be doing it quite like the seaside city of Brighton.
Starting just 5 years ago, this event now has major sponsorship, votes in the thousands and attended by over 300 excited spectators from all over the South of England, making it one of the biggest drinks industry award ceremonies in the country! So grab your striped deck chair and let us fill you in on the success of The Brighton Bar Awards.
The classic story of two bartenders chatting over a Daiquiri one night in a dive bar, scribbling down notes on a bev nap, seems exactly how the story should start...and indeed it does! The brain child of Sam Sidgwick and Matt Simmons, event bartenders for The Mixology Group, wanted to reward all the hard work displayed by bar teams across the city and have one night a year where all the venues shut up shop and get together for one annual industry night.
From humble beginnings, the event began as a bit of fun in a local function room with a modest sound system and a squeaky microphone. From tongue-in-cheek awards to some slightly more serious accolades.
"Award ceremonies at the time seemed to be getting stale, boring and not really focusing on the entertainment/social gathering side of things," says Sam. "So it was time to plan and write a show that would be fun but not cheesy, classy but not stuffy, rewarding but not egotistical, and most of all showcase the huge array of drinking venues Brighton has to offer. It seems ridiculous, but people say there are more bars, restaurants and cafes than anywhere in Europe, when comparing it per square meter."
True or not, it sure does sum up how beautifully lost one can get in the Brighton drinks scene. "The first attempt was a bit of a test-run to see how many people would attend," says Matt, a student at the time. "It ended up being packed to the gills with bartenders from all types of venues. So the next year we decided to rent out a small theatre. Then a bigger theatre. Now we're at about 300, it's crazy! With all the tourism Brighton receives throughout the summer, it's nice to let your hair down towards the end of September and enjoy a nice evening with like-minded people. I think a lot of General Managers buy a round of tickets as a way of congratulating their staff for all their hard work during the busy period."
So, with The Brighton Bar Awards 2019 just around the corner on Sunday 15th September, what can we expect from this year's extravaganza? The organisers aren't divulging too much information (and instead pointing at the ticket sales page).
But, according to Sam, compere of the whole event, there's ice sculptures, confetti showers, a huge secret area with bartender-friendly entertainment, an exciting and exclusive new product waiting on everyone's seat, plus an amazing pre-show cocktail & canape reception on the roof!
Brighton really does set the standard for other cities' industry award ceremonies and with it being so close to our capital city (45mins from Victoria) one can only hope it continues to get bigger and better. If you'd like to attend this glorious celebration of all things bar-based, you can purchase tickets on EventBrite.co.uk.
Plus, if you are unable to make it but have paid a visit to Brighton and had a particularly memorable drinking experience, then you can vote by clicking the link on the Brighton Bartenders Association Facebook page, or BNBA as its affectionately now known, or head straight to the form here. See you there!