By Kira Weir
The new licensing laws brought in by Scottish legislation on September the 1st this year now make it illegal to create promotions that last fewer than 72 hours, ban the common “snakebite” unless the half pint of cider and half pint of lager are served to the customer in different glasses and require bar staff to offer water as every second drink a customer receives. Many bars and clubs are struggling to keep customers and attract new ones so how will a fledgling business fair in attracting and keeping a customer base?
The Southern Bar on South Clerk Street has recently been re-opened by two young entrepreneurs Mark Miller (21) and Andy McKenzie (22) who hope to create a popular Edinburgh gig venue. Mark already runs a successful recording studio in Glasgow but neither of the pair have had any experience running or even working in a bar so the venture is something of a baptism of fire.
Andy explained that it took them a long time to finally open the bar and have relied on friends to train as staff to reduce set up costs. The implications of the licensing laws have made it difficult for them to attract their main target market Andy claims to be primarily students and young live music enthusiasts who will undoubtedly appreciate cheap drinks “We have tried to keep the prices kind of level all through the week as it makes it less complicated to tie in with the laws on promotions so really its the same on Monday as a Friday” The tactic may be successful as the bar is fairly busy on a Tuesday night and the barmaid Fiona assures us this is a weekly occurrence with Tuesday being the busiest week night.
Without the promise of cheap drink deals, Andy points to the bar’s Facebook page as being their main source of customers and promotion. Local club nights suggest the bar on their page, and in turn, are recommended as a suitable destination after the pub closes with most of the Tuesday regulars heading on to the same club afterwords.
The licensing laws have not made the task of opening the bar too difficult and Andy tells us that the regulations and stipulations for training staff have actually helped them to organize the bar and train efficient staff.
The staff of the Southern Bar don’t see the laws having a great effect on the drinking habits of their customer base and think that if people can’t afford to drink in bars they will drink at home before going out. Andy claims that he doesn’t think they will affect the success of the bar, “We want to start doing food during the day and turn downstairs’ into a really good gig venue” While Fiona seems excited about the prospects of beer and burger offers that are not affected by the licensing legislation. “Plus, a lot of old regulars come in and tell us they like whats going on”
In 1991 this small bar on South Clerk Street in Edinburgh held a gig for one of the most famous grunge bands, Nirvana. The reckless grunge attitude to drinking may no longer be permitted but the Southern Bar seems set to recreate the atmosphere regardless.