The owner of City-based wine bars Planet of the Grapes and Fox Fine Wines has revealed plans to open a new hybrid shop and bar in East Dulwich.
Matt Harris said the new site, which will also be called Planet of the Grapes, will see a return to the company’s roots as a hybrid operator. The new space (pictured), on a side street in a former bakery and plant shop, will have a licence until 10pm. Harris said the food offer will be simple, with the emphasis more on the wine shop and bar.
The 250-strong wine range will be available to buy by the bottle, with a selection available by the glass.
“We’re members of Vindependents, so we ship a lot of wine direct as part of that co-operative,” Harris said. “We’ll also do cocktail nights, tastings and discounts on match days for supporters of the local team, Dulwich Hamlet FC.”
He said the idea is to bring some of the City bars’ fine wines to East Dulwich but the main “sweet spot” of the range will be between £10-25.
The East Dulwich site marks the first new opening for the company in eight years. Harris was forced to close two of his four sites during the pandemic, and he blasted the government’s treatment of the hospitality industry.
“We had the worst of it during Covid – City-based bars with no retail element to fall back on,” he said. “Turnover went from £2.5 million in 2019, to £400,000 in 2020. We kept afloat with online tastings and selling to private customers.”
Harris said the company is currently paying back £6,000 per month for loans including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (known as CBILS). He also highlighted increased energy costs and paperwork relating to Brexit, as well as the huge impact recent train strikes have had on his business.
“But the positive thing is, we’re doing well enough to afford to open a new business,” he added. “I’ve realised that no one is coming to help us in the hospitality industry – even our bank cancelled our overdraft during Covid. The treatment of the hospitality industry has been appalling.”
He said the new site is self-funded through the current owners selling some of their shareholdings in the company.
“I’ve lived in this area for 20 years, so I like to think I’ve been doing my market research by eating and drinking in the same places a lot of our potential customers go to,” Harris added. “We’ve got a great team and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”
Harris expects to open the new site in Spring.