Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Oxford Wine Company goes late with new wine bar

Published:  23 August, 2017

Opening a piano bar may seem far away from being a wine wholesaler but The Oxford Wine Company likes to take the opportunities when they arise.

The award winning company opened Sandy’s Piano & Wine Bar in Oxford this week. This is not a hybrid operation but a move into the late-night sector as the bar opens at 4.30pm and has a licence at weekends until 3am. The bar joins its other Oxford operations including three retail outlets, a wine café and the wholesale side of the business, which makes up the majority (60%).

Ted Sandbach, managing director of The Oxford Wine Company, says he came across the site by accident while looking for the third retail outlet.

“While we were looking I came across this site which had an extensive cellar beneath it and had been part of an old Oxford college,” he says.

“It was not quite right for wine but I thought it would make an interesting piano bar. We supply a number of piano bars in London and I know how they work.”

However, the concept and operation has been driven by his youngest son George who is nicknamed Sandy (hence the bar name), who has experience in the bar sector. George identified an untapped area of the market in Oxford. Quite simply that if you are aged 25 to 50 there is no late-night venues apart from nightclubs.

“It is under the Oxford Wine umbrella but it is very much his baby. He has put money into it and financed it along with our help,” says Sandbach.

“The piano bar has only been opened for less than a week so it’s a bit early to get a pattern but it is pretty busy from 9pm onwards and it is a late evening venue.”

The wine list offers eight house whites and eight house reds by the glass, with 10 to 12 wines by the bottle. It also has a cocktail offering which is already proving popular.

“The piano bar has a nice wine list but it is more of an entertainment and music place. Most people know The Oxford Wine Company is involved and know it is going to have a good wine selection,” he says

“It is not the cheapest place as we have to pay for the piano players and we don’t charge at the door. So instead of a glass of wine being £3.50 it is £4.50.”

There is a wine sommelier employed at the site who works Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights while experienced cocktail staff are also on hand.

This is another evolution for The Oxford Wine Company, which Sandbach launched in 1992. He believes that having retail shops as well as the wholesale operation are important to the business.

“We have always had a retail shop and I have even opened some and closed them in rural areas which were not a great success. But what I have realised is that I have got to have places with footfall,” says Sandbach.

“We are well-known locally but go an hour and a half away and no-one has a clue who we are.”

He says that finding sites in Oxford has been a challenge due to a number of factors including the one-way street system and high rents. After opening its third retail outlet, 100 yards from the new piano bar, Sandbach says it is unlikely that there will by anymore for the “foreseeable future”.

But, he admits, there may be more piano bars if the operation proves itself.

“There is no point running before you can walk. The one thing about the company is that we have never had outside investment and everything has always been done by ourselves,” he says.

“It is all done on a bit of wing and a prayer.”