Three weeks ago, I had the luck to attend the CLASS Bar Awards in London. Launched in 2003 by CLASS, the magazine of reference of the UK bar industry, the annual event gathers the most prominent figures of the country’s bar scene to celebrate the talents “that set the standard for hospitality and innovation across the UK”.
The CLASS Bar Awards winners are elected either following the industry vote of the CLASS Collective, a group of over 70 industry experts from top bars across the UK, or after analysis of the submitted entries by a panel of judges from the UK bar industry.
Some of this year’s awards acknowledged individuals for their contribution to the industry. Beside the usual awards for best bartender/bar manager, etc., two awards got my attention. Those distinguishing the Back Bar and Front of House of the year, two roles that I feel are not often given enough attention even though they play an important part in the overall guest experience. The front of house people because they are guests’ first interaction with the bar staff. The bar backs because they ensure the bartenders have all they need to prepare the guests’ drinks in a timely fashion. It was nice to see individuals praised for the impact they have in these roles. Front of House Star of the Year is Coral Anderson from Swift in London and Back Bar Star of the Year is Erin Davies from Nocturnal Animals in Birmingham.
Other awards recognised bars for their leading position in different categories (new bar, hotel bar, restaurant bar, menu, cocktail). Needless to say, it’s added names to my constantly expanding list of establishments to visit in the UK!
One of the CLASS Bar Awards, the one for bar food menu, acknowledged the alternative to restaurants bars now offer in terms of dining options with the spreading culture of afterwork and apéritif. The recipient of the award was Public in Sheffield.
As in many other industries, bars work hard on their online presence and many trade conferences have talks about the use of social media and the building of one’s online brand and reputation. Some bars even use their digital communication to raise awareness on societal topics and even funds to support charities. The Social Media presence of the year was given out to Crazy Pedro’s in Manchester who has successfully leveraged its social media activities to increase sales on its online shop and raised money to support community events.
Sustainability is an important concern in the bartending industry. Brands put a big focus on it throughout their cocktail competitions and bars look for ways to limit their impact on the environment (no straw, maximum use of ingredients, etc.). The Sustainable Practices award is a recognition of the efforts being made and an encouragement to keep the good work. This year’s laureate, Terroir Tapas in Bournemouth, not only recycles its non-repurposed glass and composts its waste, it also grows its own garnishes on a living wall and repurposed empty kegs as mini greenhouses.
Here is the full list of the CLASS Bar Awards and the winners and finalists in each category :
Erin Davies of Nocturnal Animals, Birmingham (winner)
Riccardo Rebesan, The Connaught Bar, London
Theodoros Ispoglou, Nightjar, London
Coral Anderson of Bar Swift, London (winner)
Eduard Pretsi, The Churchill Bar & Terrace, London
Gosia Krok, The Lobby Bar, London
Amber Blood of Callooh Callay, London (winner)
Sarah Berardi, Draffens, Dundee
Yann Bouvignies, Scarfes Bar, London
Declan McGurk of the American Bar at the Savoy hotel, London (winner)
Anna Sebastian, Artesian Bar, The Langham, London
Michele Venturini, Cahoots, London
Max Venning of Three Sheets, London (winner)
Alex Lawrence, Dandelyan, London
Remy Savage, Artesian Bar, The Langham, London
Crazy Pedro’s, Manchester (winner)
Sexy Fish, London
Terroir Tapas, Bournemouth (winner)
Amico’s Bar, Ingatestone, Essex
Apples, Coupette, London (winner)
French 75, Three Sheets, London
Whisky Soda, Three Sheets, London
Dandelyan, London (winner)
Scarfes Bar, London
Three Sheets, London
Public, Sheffield (winner)
Satan’s Whiskers, London
Black Rock (whisky), London (winner)
Coupette (calvados), London
Laki Kane (tiki drinks), London
The Bon Vivant, Edinburgh (winner)
Hawksmoor Spitalfields, London
Sager + Wilde, London
American Bar, the Savoy, London (winner)
Cocktail Lounge, The Edgbaston, Birmingham
Bar Three, London (winner)
Three Sheets, London (winner)