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Bar aims to be a showcase for local talent
THE phrase Big Society usually stirs up ideas of Conservative party policies.
But now in Oxford it may take on a rather different meaning – with the opening today of a bar on Cowley Road which offers community opportunities.
The Big Society bar – the former Elm Tree and Lan Kwai Fong Chinese restaurant – wants to engage with the community, giving people a say about what’s on offer and providing business opportunities.
A six metre by six metre section will be offered out to “pop-up” businesses.
This will give people struggling to set up their businesses a platform to launch their idea.
Joint general manager Alex Harmon, 30, of Jericho, is looking forward to taking on the challenge. He said: “We hope it is really like nothing else in Oxford. We have even been inviting artists to paint murals on the wall. Our aim is to push local talent.
“We want to use the place as a forum and a stage for anyone who wants to get involved and showcase their work.”
Whether it is art, fashion, carpentry, or something else, businesses are encouraged to get in touch.
The bar will also support local breweries, with two Oxfordshire real ales always on sale. Shotover Brewing Company’s Scholar and Prospects are the first to be served, but these will change on a regular basis.
Steve Lawrence, secretary and branch contact for the Oxford Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), supported the new bar. Mr Lawrence, 63, from Abingdon, said: “It is a good thing to see local ales on sale. There are plenty of other bars in that area, though, so good luck to them. We will be watching this with interest to see how they are doing.”
Mr Harmon felt that the new venue’s community engagement would fit well in Cowley.
He added: “The diversity of Cowley makes it the right place to do it.
“We want people to get involved.”
Mr Harmon will be working together with other joint general manager Jack Pinnington, 30, from Littlemore.
The new owners are Matthew Davies and Tim Fitz-Gibbon, of Spice Island Leisure Group, which already owns Raoul’s Cocktail Bar and the Victoria public house on Walton Street.
Spice Island Leisure Group took the keys in September, spending five months refurbishing the Grade II listed building. The work received a nomination for the listed building renovation of the year from Oxford City Council.