ParVinu Logo

_On the 27th September 2005, the three principals of Grapespot Limited sat down with the St Margarets Community Website to talk about their proposed wine bar, Parvinu at Phelps and address some of the comments and concerns voiced on this site about the plan._

Grapespot is owned by three local businessmen (Gavin Mitchell, Berkley Driscoll and Anthony Cooke), two of whom had children going through the St Margarets school system. Only Gavin has had significant experience in running restaurants and wine bars, including the long running Julie’s Restaurant & Bar in Holland Park, but hasn’t been in the trade for a number of years. However, they will be using a restaurant consultancy to work alongside them and oversee the opening of Parvinu. They came together because of their interest in wine and their personal desire for this type of venue. Their goal is to create something that “will enhance the community, not hurt it.” In fact, they have been taken aback by the nature of the negative responses on the site.

The owners plan on being very hands-on. Gavin and Berkley will have significant daily presence in the wine bar along with a professional manager.

History

Last Summer, Grapespot was in the process of seeking planning and licensing permission for this same wine bar. At the time they held an ‘open meeting’ before the proposal went before the council. Local residents expressed serious concerns about the plans, particularly the planned entrance on the Mews leading to Broadway Avenue. When the Committee Report came back recommending that the council refuse the application based on the principal ground that the ‘Open Meeting’ cited, namely the impact of having the entrance in the mews, Grapespot withdrew the application.

So the Grapespot team revised their plans to try and mitigate all they could and resubmit the application. This time they proposed an entrance on St Margarets Road, added internal cages to store rubbish overnight for removal the following day and added baffles to quiet the air conditioning, already on the roof. They plan to use the Broadway entrance only for daytime deliveries, with small transit vans, emergency exits and disabled access.

Vision

Grapespot wants to create a place for “people to come and have a good simple meal combined some good wine.” They are looking to create and atmosphere of an “extended dinner party”, where people come to eat, talk and learn about wine (if they are interested). They want it to be the “antithesis of what is going on in Richmond and Twickenham” right now, a place that is up scale yet homey that will attract an older crowd. They plan to draw some 90% of their clients from the local area and will only market locally and by word-of-mouth.

They are planning on offering a simple choice of foods, sourced as locally as possible, all free-range or organic. Lunches will be soups, salads and deli-style snacks with children welcome. Then they are hoping for an after work crowd with people having a glass of wine moving towards a dinner crowd with more of a substantial choice of deli-style platters and shared food entr{e’}es. They told us “we don’t want people to just drink, we want everybody to eat something as well.”

While there will be an emphasis on wines as the owners are “passionate about wines”, they plan to offer some wine based spirits, like cognac and grapas, also some real ales and ciders in bottles. They also want to create the opportunity for people to learn about wine on offer — from tasting notes to staff that have been trained to special tastings and potentially even some classes. All staff will be trained on the wine list by the Wine Education & Spirit Trust and the whole wine selection, buying , storage and education will be overseen their associate, Xenia Irwin, a Master of Wine, of which there are less than 250 in the world.

Grapespot also noted that they are trying to “de-mystify and de-snob wine” by focusing on education and finding “great wines at a good value.”

Not an Off-License

One thing that wasn’t so clear in the prospectus was the question of retail sales. Grapespot confirmed that they are not going to be selling bottles to take home; however, they will sell wines in from Parvinu to be delivered from their bonded warehouse in Twickenham. They are hoping that people will try wines, find a few they like and then order them for next day delivery. They will also be setting up a web site that will allow people to order directly online.

Responsible Drinking

The owners want Par Vinu to encourage responsible drinking. They will not offer ‘happy hours’ or sell oversized 250ml glasses of wine. They also will plan on “shutting their doors by midnight.”

Events

Grapespot hope that Parvinu becomes a community meeting place. They mentioned that it would be a “perfect place for book clubs to meet”, charity events, mother’s nights out, birthday parties and groups to hold private wine tastings.

The space will hold about 120 people, mostly seated. They plan on having a ‘greeter’ during busy times to help manage moving people from the lobby or bar waiting area to tables and to make sure the place isn’t too full. They will also have CCTV and be very watchful of problem clients.

They will also use Parvinu for art exhibitions and shows focusing on local talent and mentioned they are planning to open with an exhibition featuring new work from a locally based professional photographer, Stuart Redler.

Addressing Community Concerns

Grapespot consistently mentioned that it was in their “best interest to be a good neighbour, we live here and we have our reputation and money to lose if things don’t go well.” Their whole vision it to improve St Margarets, not hurt it. They also noted that they will be held strictly accountable by the local licensing authorities which are strict and have broad powers of enforcement under the newest legislation.

The web team expressed a concern that if the wine bar was not profitable for Grapespot that they might be tempted to go down the mass market binge drinking route and thus attract a different crowd to the area. Grapespot said they had no desire to pursue a mass market drinking club type venue offering cheap drinks and attracting nuisance crowds to the area. “It is not about vertical drinking (packing people in to drink standing up), it is about having good food, with wine that is ‘good value’.”

The Grapespot team said they were well aware that any licence holder could very easily have their licence revoked if they attracted crowds of irresponsible drinkers who caused problems for the local community. The licensing regulations have recently passed enforcement from the Magistrates Court to the Local Authority. Local Authorities have been given much greater powers to close down unsuitable premises. Any complaints used to have to wait until the next sitting of the licensing Magistrates but under these new powers a place can be closed down in 24 hours.

They also felt, while it is fair to ask about what might happen in the space if they fail, it is unfair for them to be accountable for what happens in that scenario and pointed out that the lease provides for Mr Phelps and his fellow directors to approve any new lessee. However, they felt that licensing laws are strict and would prevent just anyone moving in.

They also pointed out that if they are prevented from taking the premises, Mr. Phelps will have to find another tenant or tenants for the space as it is so large. As the place is already allowed to be a warehouse or retail unit, anything could come in. They cited the potential for things like a self-storage space, large retailer or some other higher traffic place moving in.

Conclusion


The meeting concluded with a discussion on the usage of the site. As a basement site it is not very attractive to retailers; however, the site currently has warehouse and retail usage which means that any company could open up a storage/distribution business without having to apply for permission from the council as no change of use would occur. This is similar to Tesco taking over Olivers and Superdrug taking over Phelps, no change of use has taken place and so permission is not required from the council. The basement becoming a distribution/warehouse centre could substantially increase the traffic to the rear of the building and so into Broadway Avenue. Any use as a warehouse/distribution centre would be able to use the existing service road at the rear throughout the day, again because there is technically no change of use.

The web team hope that we have asked all the questions posted on the site and raised all of your issues. The web team did also feel that Grapespot should have previously given more information in some key areas to the residents, for example — routing the air conditioning unit along a discussed lift shaft and up to the roof and so substantially reducing noise to residents near by. Grapespot should have communicated more information about how they intend to sell wine (e.g. not being an off-licence and not selling large glasses of wine, not offering cut price drinks at quieter times and not selling ‘alcopops’).

Should you have any further questions we would be pleased to contact Grapespot for the answers, or you can contact them directly through their site (www.grapespot.com) or email them at drink@grapespot.com.