Bar chain set to make its debut in Yorkshire

Artists impression of BaaBar Leeds
Artists impression of BaaBar Leeds
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FORTY jobs are expected to be created when a national bar chain opens its first site in Yorkshire next month.

The Baa Bar Group is opening a bar in Cookridge Street, near Millennium Square in Leeds, as part of a strategy to establish itself as a national brand.

The company is also considering opening bars in Sheffield and York.

Chief executive Elaine Clarke said the company had been thinking about opening a bar in Yorkshire for several years.

She added: “We’re still sifting through (possible sites) in Sheffield. We want to open a bar there when the right opportunity comes along.”

The Leeds bar will become the 11th site operated by Baa Bar, which has bars in Manchester, Liverpool and Nottingham.

The Baa Bar Group plans to open 10 bars over the next five years across major cities in the UK.

Ms Clarke said yesterday: “For Baa Bar, it’s all about finding the right sites and we feel we’ve found a gem in Millennium Square.” Ms Clarke’s business career began in 1984, when she was 16. She got a job working as a waitress at her aunt’s cafe, Tabac, on Liverpool’s Bold Street.

She said yesterday: “I grew up in a working class family. I saw what had work brought you.

“I believe that what you put into life, you get back.

“I was born and bred in Liverpool and now we hope we will become a national brand.”

During the 1980s, Ms Clarke took on a number of management positions at well-known bars in Liverpool.

Apart from running Tabac, she also worked as an assistant at Birdy’s Bar and Kelly’s Wine Bar. She joined Baa Bar in 1991 as the general manager of the bar’s first site in Fleet Street, Liverpool.

She turned round a struggling business, and a second bar opened in Manchester in 2001. Today Baa Bar has bars in Deansgate Locks, Fallowfield and Sackville Street, in Manchester, and Goosegate in Nottingham.

Its turnover grew from £500,000 in 1992 to £11m in 2011. Each new site is expected to add around £1m to the company’s turnover.

The company has seven bars and employs around 320 staff.

Ms Clarke said: “Our success has been all about keeping the brand fresh, developing our people and providing great customer service.”

Baa Bar has developed in recent years with backing from around 30 “high net worth” individuals and Yorkshire Bank.

Ms Clarke added: “A lot has changed in the industry in 21 years and we’ve seen it all.

“At the time when we opened, bars weren’t as popular in the North as they were in the South, but we spotted an emerging trend and went for it.

“In a climate where pubs and bars are under significant strain, we’re incredibly proud to have achieved all we have so far, and to be talking about expanding 21 years down the line.

“Baa Bar’s growth over the past two decades began organically but has developed into a very strategic roll-out.”

The group’s chairman, Richard O’Sullivan, is probably best known as the co-founder of the international food brand, Millie’s Cookies.

Millie’s began as a small concession in London’s Selfridges Food hall. Stores were later opened in most major shopping centres, railway stations and airports across the UK.

Mr O’Sullivan, who is also the chairman of Boost Juice bars and Mexican food chain, Barburrito, has been a member of the Baa Bar board since 2006.

Mr O’Sullivan said; “I joined the board when the group floated on the stock exchange and think that the industry could learn from the business model that Baa Bar has created.

“The strength of the brand is testament to the creativity that runs through our core.

“We are fun, but as a business, we’re very serious and are looking forward to showing the industry what we can do.”

He added “Yorkshire is a fantastic place to invest and we’re keen to find the best sites that the region has to offer.

“Baa Bar has maintained its position on the nightlife circuit for the past 21 years by maintaining a commitment to great value and great times.

“We’re one of the few places where you can come out with £20 in your pocket, enjoy a good night out, and still come home with change.”

Ms Clarke was named as one of the most Influential Scousers on the Planet in 2008.

She is on the board of Manchester Pride, and is a patron of the Liverpool-based HIV and Aids charity, Sahir House. She also works with the Black Health Agency in Manchester.