Words by Sammy Hemmings and James Hopkins
Photography by Havana Club
Since 2010, London Cocktail Club has gone from strength to strength. But James Hopkins, co-founder of the UK bar chain, considers the pandemic as one of the toughest obstacles he's had to overcome.
"The challenges I've had to face over the last ten years seem to pale in comparison," he says. "Having to deal with 9 landlords over 10 leases during this crisis has been one of the biggest challenges I've faced in my career."
For James, sustainability is key. "What drives me the most is my desire to leave a positive footprint in the industry," he says. "I believe doing the work that's important, that promotes positive culture with a growth mindset is important because it not only affects those you work directly with, but if you get it right, can have the ripple effect that sees the customers understanding your culture and buying directly into it. If you can wake up every morning and find purpose loving your job knowing you're on a positive trajectory you sleep much better at night."
London Cocktail Club is also committed to supporting the community. "We aim to hire from the local community and provide job opportunities where possible working with Princes Trust and Springboard charities to reduce unemployment and create positive career options," James says.
For James, a highlight of the bar business is helping others progress. "We have a training programme which is labeled 'bar back to bar owner' and takes even someone who's never made a mixed drink in their lives and offers them all the training and on the job experience they need to go on and open their own business or forge a career in hospitality," he says.
Despite lockdown restrictions for hospitality venues amid the pandemic, James remains optimistic. "Having started a business at the beginning of a global crisis I have witnessed what a post recession London hospitality scene looks like, and it's as resilient as any I can think off," he says. "There's one thing you can rely on, and that's the great British public's desire to enjoy a drink and try something new and exciting."
Former Dragons' Den entrepreneur Sarah Willingham, behind hospitality investment business Nightcap, acquired London Cocktail Club, consisting of 10 venues across the UK, in late 2020. The bar chain has since floated on the Stock Exchange market which will help the business further expand following the pandemic.
An ambitious entrepreneur, James also launched La Vida Tropica, a passionfruit and vanilla liqueur in late 2019. "It was a real kick in the teeth to go into lockdown in March ," he says. "We've managed to navigate ourselves into a handful of large groups and into a small number of route to market operators, I've got hopes that with a strong recovery in the industry we'll see the growth of this product...watch this space."