Mon | Sep 27, 2021
COVER STORY

Frith creates new bar company

Adds new element with workshops for rum bar operators

Published:Friday | September 10, 2021 | 12:09 AMNeville Graham - Business Reporter
Entrepreneur Kevin Frith, co-owner and chairman of Bar Circle.
Entrepreneur Kevin Frith, co-owner and chairman of Bar Circle.

Kevin Frith has reacquired the assets of Bar Central Limited, a company he founded and later sold majority interest to SSL Venture Capital Jamaica. Two years after the takeover, the fallout in the alcohol trade resulting from the coronavirus...

Kevin Frith has reacquired the assets of Bar Central Limited, a company he founded and later sold majority interest to SSL Venture Capital Jamaica.

Two years after the takeover, the fallout in the alcohol trade resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, led to the shutdown of Bar Central’s operations.

“They sent me a message that the company was to be closed down and I offered to buy the assets,” Frith said.

So far, Frith has bought three 2011 Nissan panel vans, a 2004 Hino truck, and equipment and tools that were a part of the bar countertop and renovations factory operations. He said he has spent nearly $4 million on the distressed assets, which are to be utilised in his new venture called Bar Circle. Frith sees the new business as a rebirth, but with a twist, of Bar Central, a marketer of alcoholic products to community bars that he started in 2014.

“We’ve restarted the business; rebuilding the relationship with J. Wray & Nephew and the customers in the various parishes that we used to service,” he said.

“We’ve growing the business gradually back to where it was by containing our overheads, and rebuilding relationships. We’ve also transformed the business from just makeover and distribution, to a bar business development company,” he added.

Bar Circle is held through Ideas Execution Limited, a company formed in July 2019 in which Frith has a two-thirds stake and Patricia Powell holds one-third, Companies Office of Jamaica records show.

Powell is the CEO for Bar Circle. The business is governed by a five-member board chaired by Frith.

The plan is to gradually scale up Bar Circle amid continuing lockdowns, curfews and no-movement days to temper a spike in COVID-19 infections. The bar operation will invest $50 million over the next 18 months to rebuild and position for business opportunities, the financing of which is expected to come from an unnamed private investor.

Meanwhile, Bar Circle is using the downtime wrought by the pandemic to assist bar owners with business registration and obtaining spirit licences, as well as training in accounting, operations, the use of social media, customer service and maintaining relationships, said Frith.

Jamaica is reported to have more than 20,000 rum bars.

“For those who don’t have a social media presence, we help them to create it. We also show them the value of keeping proper records, using tools like Facebook and Instagram, showing them the value of hashtags. The bar market is evolving and they need to respond,” he added.

Bar Circle is also referring the bar operators to three partnering financial institutions, Dolla Financial, Access Financial Services and First Regional Credit Union.

“They may want to grow their business by adding features like a pool table or gaming machine. They may want working capital to stock their shelves,” the Bar Circle chairman said.

Going forward, Bar Circle will be doing more training workshops to reorient bar owners towards seeing their establishments as businesses and not just as places for community gatherings and entertainment.

“Bars have to move to the point of customer experience. This is anything from clean bathrooms to how patrons are served while they are at the business. This will drive word-of-mouth advertising because, ultimately, it is people who bring people to their favourite bar,” Frith said.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com