December 8 2013

Business booming for Bath's independent businesses

The Pig hasn’t seen the Heritage City as busy as it was last Saturday afternoon since… well, since last weekend, when it was apparently even busier. Can we possibly cram any more visitors into Bath city centre? Certain people don’t think so. But The Pig says, bring it on! Who wouldn’t rather see small business owners stressing out about coping with too many customers rather than sitting behind the counter in an empty shop, stall, restaurant or cafe worrying about how to pay next week’s rent? As well as staunchly supporting our established independent retailers, The Pig also has huge admiration for the brave entrepreneurs who have opened new businesses against the pessimistic “advice” from the naysayers who grumble about the crowds attracted by the Bath Christmas Market and complain that an influx of visitors meant they couldn’t get a table at Faceless High Street Franchise PLC before the vouchers they’d collected from TesNoCo expired. Do these people really know anything about what goes on in the city they live in at all? But anyway…

In the past couple of weeks alone, the lovely, lively bar and canteen that is the BTP Smokehouse (@GPTBATH)* and the Thoughtful Bread Company‘s new bakery and cookery school have breathed new life into empty premises that were seriously in danger of turning into woebegone shrines to former glory days, while the Kings Arms on Monmouth Place has brand new owners who have given this characterful pub the TLC it so richly deserves. Elsewhere, fairly recent indie kids Burgers’n’Barrels (which opened its doors earlier this year) is thriving on a site that many Bathonians (ah, those naysayers again!) had written off as little more than a drive-by zone zone; Yammo! – despite being established just a handful of months ago – picked up two well-deserved gongs at this year’s Bath Good Food Awards and the Green Rocket Cafe (also established 2013; @GreenRocketCafe)* grabbed their own BGFA award for Best Cafe in Bath (look out for Pig reviews and news from all these places and the new businesses I’ve no doubt left out – sorry! – early in the new year).

And so it came to pass that, on Small Business Saturday, The Pig sallied forth to investigate the charms of Charlie Crown‘s, the shiny new boutique wine emporium on Upper Borough Walls that compliments rather than competes with our existing independent wine and spirit specialists Independent Spirit and Raisin Wine. CC’s is a stylish venture indeed: a small but perfectly formed haven of good taste tippling, featuring a smart little retail zone staffed by friendly, well-informed meet’n’greeters at street level and an inviting little tasting room upstairs. Charlie’s “bar” works like this: you buy a pre-loaded CC credit card (Christmas gift alert? The Pig thinks so) and use your funds to spend on a variety of tasters all ready and waiting for you at the temperature-controlled dispenser. Snifter shots start at just £1-ish, and you can ask one of Charlie’s crew to guide your choices or go your own sweet (or demi-sec, or brut, etc) way as you please. If you join the Charlie Crown club (visit the website for details) and take two friends along for a tasting with you, Charlie gives you a complimentary £5 card to get the party started. And if you over-indulge (elegantly, of course) and end up flat out on the squidgy velvet sofa, you can either play count the number of silver spoons (legend has it that Charlie was born with nothing but a silver spoon and great taste) hanging from the ceiling or pick up a Penguin classic from the bookshelf and pretend to be swooning under the influence of literary genius rather than waiting for that room-spinning sensation to pass. In summary, a visit to Charlie Crown is great fun: a chic, unique way to sample and stock up on thoroughly decent wine, and yet another good reason why buying overpriced gnats, erm, effluence from the supermarket isn’t really a good idea at all.

So there we have it, Piggies: the indie scene in the Heritage City is buoyant, buzzing and boisterous – and it’s up to you to keep it that way. Small Business Saturday is for life, not just the build-up to Christmas. And just for the record, The Pig thinks that this year’s Bath Christmas Market has been the best one yet.

*Twitter handle used where websites are yet to go live. The other businesses are on Twitter too but if I’d put them all in we’d have all got very cluttered, so find them on The Pig’s ‘following’ list and flaunt your support

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