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Looking back on the first year of Penwortham craft bar Fairham’s with owners Ellis and Liam

Posted on - 12th May, 2024 - 6:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, Food & Drink, Penwortham, Preston News, Pubs, South Ribble News, What's On in Preston
Fairham's exterior
Fairham’s in Liverpool Road

This month marks one year since Ellis McKeown and Liam Stemson opened the doors to Fairham’s Bar in Penwortham.

As founders and distillers at Fairham Distillery – the award-winning craft gin distillery that produces Fairham Gin – the duo took the plunge on their first public premise back in May 2023, converting an empty unit in Liverpool Road.

With Fairham’s Bar, Ellis and Liam are on a mission to celebrate all things craft. Alongside their own Fairham Gin range sits an array of spirits from distilleries in the UK and beyond. The menu features fine wines sourced from Barrica Wines in Chorley, plus craft beers from local breweries such as Farm Yard Brew Co and Hopworks.

The bar has also become known for artisan cocktails, which are developed in-house by the Fairham’s team. A new release for the bar’s first birthday is a margarita board, an addition to the established tasting boards that give customers the option to explore the spirits on offer.

Read on to find out how Ellis and Liam have found their first year as bar owners.

Ellis and Liam of Fairham's
Ellis and Liam of Fairham’s

Congratulations on one year of Fairham’s Bar! How has it gone for you?

Ellis: 2023 was a whirlwind. We both went full-time in our business and opened Fairham’s Bar to the public, which was exciting, nervy and everything in between! At that point, Fairham Gin was just operating online with the distillery too small to open for visitors – and it still is – so we jumped at the chance of opening Fairham’s Bar when the unit on Liverpool Road became available.

Opening a bar just dedicated to our gin was out of the question, so we leant on our love for craft spirits to construct a menu full of many different wonderful options. We celebrate our journey within the bar so there is a relationship there with the distillery, but we’re more than just a gin bar at Fairham’s.

What have been the best parts of your first year?

Liam: One highlight has been becoming known for our service and offerings within Penwortham. We have developed a great customer base full of regulars, many of whom have become friends. That’s the great thing about hospitality and one of the main reasons why we wanted a public premise; to interact with customers face to face.

A particular highlight is the path we have gone down in offering artisan cocktails. We didn’t think this was something we would be known for. When we launched, we only had eight cocktails on our menu. Fast forward 12 months and we now have a dedicated artisan cocktail menu with 22 to choose from, whilst having weekly and seasonal specials. We really have found a love of crafting great tasting drinks and we’ve got a great team at Fairham’s who contribute.

Fairham's margarita board
The margarita board is a recent addition to Fairham’s offering

It’s been a challenging time for the hospitality industry, what with the pandemic and cost of living crisis. What are the biggest challenges you have faced?

Ellis: I would say it’s been the dread of being quiet and the unpredictability. Penwortham as a town is great, give us a warm sunny afternoon and you won’t find a spare seat on our patio from early afternoon to late evening. However, midweek in the depths of winter it is a ghost town, you don’t get that footfall that you obviously would in a city centre.

We’ve been on a big learning curve this year in how we sell ourselves during the quieter periods and also keeping stock levels right. For example, we had one Saturday in February which was crazy busy, but we still had our January stock levels head on – we almost ran out of everything!

What can customers expect when visiting Fairham’s?

Ellis: Firstly, a warm welcome. Whether that’s from us two, our Californian Bar Lead, Annette, or other Fairham’s team members, we always greet everyone the same way. The bar has evolved over the last 12 months. Liam and I are always updating and trying new things out, but right now we’ve got a great feel about the place. Think more of a cosy lounge bar; comfy lower leather seating and cushioned stools, warming wood features, eye-catching wallpaper – it’s important that people feel comfortable and welcome to us.

You can then browse our drinks menu, cocktail menu or ask for recommendations. Our shelves are always rotating so if you spot a new rum or whisky, ask one of the team for information and recommended serves. While we make your cocktail, take a seat inside or on our patio, which is a suntrap during the summer – dogs also welcome!

Inside Fairham's Bar
Ellis describes Fairham’s Bar as a cosy lounge bar

Why do you think people should head to Penwortham?

Liam: I grew up in Penwortham and the change we have seen here over several years has been amazing. Liverpool Road is now a destination for an afternoon or night out with lots of different options available.

Our neighbours include 1260 Craft and Crust who produce some of the most dangerously good pizzas around – I say dangerous because I’m tempted every time I’m on shift! The other bars next to us are Gin Jar Ale and No.16 On The Hill, with all three of us offering something different. I’d love to be a customer and do a bar crawl.

But that’s not all, you’ve got Bread and Butter who produce stunningly good tapas and Sunday lunch, and there’s a lot more on offer too with Bon Bons Coffee Bar, Artisan Deli, Lime Bar Lounge, Salvatore’s and No.15 Cafe House, to name a few. The diversity is great and on a summer’s afternoon you can’t beat a bit of Penwortham alfresco dining.

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This story was made possible by support from you, our readers, and a host of organisations in the city, through our Crowdfund Lancashire appeal, which unlocked support from the Lancashire Culture and Sport Fund provided by Lancashire County Council. You can see all our coverage and, if you know of an arts project or event in the city we should be covering, send details to contactus@blogpreston.co.uk.

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