08 January 2007

Old theme Interview with Jasper Tay

Tony: Your bar is to some extent a departure from your average style bar
design (and wonderfully refreshing) Could you tell me what the philosophy
behind the concept was?

Jasper: At the time the idea for 43 was conceived, the West End was at the height of what I called- ‘bling culture’ & minimalist venues. They all looked similar- slick, like a car show room.

Because South Molton St is primarily a retail street renowned for fashion (particularly shoes). I wanted to fit in but stand out at the same time. The idea was to make to the ground floor feel like retail space but with something obviously very food and drink orientated happening inside. The idea was to put some soul back into Mayfair and create a neighbourhood general store in the middle of West End where you can buy all the necessities. I wanted to create a space where our local community would feel comfortable dropping by for a late lunch or grab a quick drink after work. I am thinking of putting up a notice board so you can put up a notice if you lost your cat. The store will change constantly and act as a platform for new up and coming fashion designers who were looking to showcase in the West End.

The upstairs members section I wanted to look like an eccentric country house, serving cocktails out of teacups. I tell the guys all the time that when people come to the bar they should feel like they are in someones living room and not a bar. The fun thing is that the design changes every week. If we feel like moving the furniture around- we do it. I like keeping things fresh- changing the pictures on the toilet doors, creating new tables, changing the lighting. It shows your customers you are proud of your establishment and changes the atmosphere in the venue. The greatest thing about the design of 43 is that there are no rules.

Tony: I don’t know if you had a design team but it sounds like you and your staff are taking responsibility for the feel of the bar through the design its more organic, I like the idea that it can constantly change. It reminds me of a bar in the former east berlin which was actually somebodies house during the day and bar by night she just locked he bedroom when it was a bar.

Jasper: We had a fantastic designer called Russell Sage do the interior here, a fashion designer by trade who ran away with the circus when he was young- so not you’re a-Stereotypical interiors guy. Russell has great creative energy so it was great collaborating with him on this, he really understood what we wanted here. It is always inevitable that the design of the building changes slightly after a venue opens. You never quite know how people are going to move in the space until they are actually in there.

As for the bar in Berlin, you are not too far off from the truth. I like the house analogy as it says a lot about this business. The dream was to have this one degree of separation from everyone, like a house party, but one that happens every night of the week. We are launching the memberships in June, so we are building it with that in mind.

Tony: How has your transition from employee to employer been?

Jasper: Apart from not been able to sleep at night, its been great! But really- not much has changed. I have always felt a sense of ownership everywhere I have worked, it makes you a lot prouder of the work you produce. It is important for me that the guys who work at 43 feel like they are working WITH me and not FOR me.

I must admit though, the learning curve has been exponential. The exposure financing, design, PR and marketing has really taught me a lot. It has not been easy but I have enjoyed every minute this last 9 months. Hopefully I can carry skills onto other businesses.

At the end of the day though, I am still a part of a team- that part hasn’t changed.

Tony: What advice or encouragement could you give bartenders to take that leap to owner ship?

Jasper: I think trade magazines do a great job giving advice bartenders in general, but that’s all academic at the end of the day if you don’t believe in yourself. That’s the biggest asset. Anyone is capable of anything if you want it bad enough. That, combined with hard work of course.

Tony: Presumably you have backers? How did that come about and how did you gain trust and confidence in them and them in you (as that is what it would takes to share a business and to have a working vision?

Jasper: To every business there is an element of risk, things may look great on paper but you don’t ever know how it is going to work out until you start working with each other. Trust and confidence is something that grows over time. All the people involved in this business have one vision- to open a great bar, restaurant & members club that will hopefully become a London institution.