Businesses in Kendal are taking part in #yourewelcomekendal, a campaign to promote all the fantastic cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, producers and food retailers in the town.
As part of the campaign we’ve been catching up with the people behind the businesses to find out why they love what they do.
Simon Thomas runs the Blind Bus Driver Speakeasy. People have to book their table in advance and drinkers play their part by (mostly) keeping the location of the bar a secret. In 2021 Simon was a semi-finalist in the UK Bartenders Guild National Cocktail Competition.
“It took a long time to find the right place for the Blind Bus Driver, because I wanted a secret bar; somewhere in a basement or an upstairs floor,” says Simon.
“We’ve found a great location now and everyone who comes here is really good at keeping it a secret! They are not actually sworn to secrecy, but I think people like the idea that not everybody knows where we are.
“I’m really focused on producing the best cocktails and that means really using the best quality of spirits that we can. There is no cheap booze in this bar. Whatever brand of spirit we say is in the cocktail is exactly what you get. If I want to use a £300 bottle of whisky in a cocktail then I can because I’m the boss!
“Cocktails have been a massive hobby of mine for 20 years and I’ve probably visited about 20 of the top 50 cocktail bars in the world in places like Paris, Rome, London, Milan. A lot of them are in Tokyo, so that’s big on my list of places to visit. Most of the best cocktail bars are in big cities, of course, but I wanted to bring something really special like that to Kendal.
“The ones I like to make the most are classic prohibition drinks like Manhattans, Martinis, Old Fashioneds; but I also like to create my own. Besides the drinks there is a whole performance element to it. People like to watch them being made and I like educating people about the different spirits and recipes. The atmosphere and experience is just as important as the cocktails. It’s like buying a theatre ticket really.”
#yourewelcomekendal is being funded by the Government’s Welcome Back Fund. The Welcome Back Fund is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and HM Government as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.