We are currently enjoying a vibrant and ever expanding beer scene and it may seem to be going slightly against the grain to want to be “just” a great beer shop. So I wanted to write a few words here to give our perspective and the reasons why we are trying to be exactly that.
When I first started looking at a place in which Otter’s Tears could flourish, lots of things were in the mix for consideration. Location, footfall, space, rent and rates, general overheads as well as things like security, shop-fit and obviously stock. We considered Queen Street for a long time before taking the plunge, it didn’t necessarily tick all the boxes, but we took a ‘build it and they will come” approach and went for it. We trusted that people would travel to what is perhaps considered one of the quieter retail locations in the city, allowing us to build our reputation by having a tip-top range of exceptional beers.
The biggest single barrier to get over was the awkward retail floor space, with the shop narrowing towards the back and a large stairwell that pretty much made one wall redundant. Pressing on, we worked really hard to make the beer shopping experience comfortable and relaxed with what space we had.
Having done our own fair share of travelling the country, in our minds we really wanted to replicate the fantastic beer shops frequented over many years such as Beer Ritz in Leeds, Beermoth in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Cotteridge Wines in Birmingham and Utobeer in Borough Market London to name but a few. Where in their beginnings at least for some, bottle sales were the primary focus.
During our research, we’d also seen some establishments where customers drinking onsite made perusing the beers on the shelves really difficult. With that in mind, we took the decision to design the space upstairs for predominantly retail purposes, the idea then to open our cellar up at weekends for the “on-site” drinking experience. Having trialled this for several months, and after taking on board customer feedback and experiences, we found folk simply didn’t want to drink downstairs that much, which then made shopping tricky for our other customers.
This brings me to the real point here. When I was planning and opened Otter’s Tears, I wanted to build a fantastic “beer shop” and not a bar. The aim, to offer an on-site tasting option, but keeping a relaxed shopping experience at the core of what we do best.
We do realise that in the last 18 months or so people have become used to getting more from a bottle shop. They have become more and more like micro-pubs but offering a huge choice to a new beer thirsty public who are fast realising that choice “is” out there. We like that experience too and love what places like Bottle Craft, The Bottle Lab and the Hopwater Cellar have done locally, but sadly it just doesn’t work well in the space we have. We have given this much thought and in order to try and strike a balance we have been trialling no drinking on site at the weekend. Saturday has proven to be our busiest day for off sales, and the trial seems to have worked well so far.
We have therefore decided to continue this permanently on Saturdays, with the drinking in facility remaining during weekdays as more of a “drink whilst you browse” offering to see how that goes and take things from there.
In terms of on-site drinking, our aim is to focus on more regular events, beer launches etc. We have two great breweries already lined up and a leg wobbling Christmas beer tasting in the diary. Plus we now have the option to take fresh draught beer home in one of our beautiful stainless steel growlers.
I really hope that our customers understand the reasons behind these decisions and continue to support us here. It may seem madness on the outside for a new business to seem to be turning custom away, this though is purely designed to make sure we flourish in the right direction, as a speciality beer shop.
With all the above in mind, we have decided to tweak our opening hours to that more in-keeping with a retail proposition and to allow us to be more flexible event wise going forward. These come into effect as of today, Tuesday 13th September 2016.
Tuesday: 12 – 19:00
Wednesday: 12 – 19:00
Thursday: 12 – 19:00
Friday: 12 – 19:00
Saturday: 11:30 – 17:30
Of course we shall continue to keep an eye on how things are going. We want to evolve as a business, and to keep giving you the best experience that we can. Please keep the feedback coming!
Phil & Rachel