Cocktail bar all shook up over first birthday

Cocktail bar Be At One is celebrating a successful first year in Birmingham with a refurbishment and the opening of a separate party room.

The underground bar which used to be a snooker club, sits opposite Grand Central. Due to its popularity since it opened in May 2016, the bar has been given a fresh and vibrant new look, as well as a huge extension where the new party room now sits with its own bar, away from the hustle and bustle of the other room.

To celebrate, the venue hosted this year’s Bartender Challenge Final at the bar, the first time outside of London.

Every year, Be At One opens the floor for each of its expert bartenders to battle it out in a quest to find the best in the company. Following regional heats and a competitive semi-final, ten finalists came together for a day full of exciting challenges and surprises which will end with one bartender being named this year’s champion.

The three co-founders of the company, Steve Locke, Rhys Oldfield and Leigh Miller, who first met in 1993 at a TGI Friday’s bartending competition in Birmingham, were all judges at the event.

Speaking at the event, Leigh Miller said: “We have opened a brand new bar here at our Birmingham site, but we are looking to open another Be At One site within the West Midlands.”

The co-owners believe that by opening a bar in town, instead of Broad Street, is the key to their success. Rhys, who began his bartending career at TGI Friday’s on Birmingham’s Hagley Road over 25 years ago, said: “It is all about having great drinks, but what is really important for the Be At One brand is having excellent service and having a real experience every time you come to the bar.

“This is definitely a great spot, what excited us was a move away from Broad Street and coming into town, with the architecture and with the newly developed Grand Central and train station, it’s a wonderful place to be.

“Broad Street has been around a long time, but here is better. It was never a case of if we were going to come to Birmingham, but when.”

The three men behind the brand also believe that Be At One has really picked up since choosing to open venues outside of London. Steve said: “We have been working on Be At One for 19 years now, and it has been a slow and steady operation. Opening locations outside of London, and especially in Birmingham and with the new bar, we have noticed just how much people appreciate our style of service and of course, the drinks.”

It was how they met that has inspired them to host the annual Be At One competition.

This year, the competition was won by Ricardas Znamenskas, of Be At One Piccadilly Circus. He is the first ever Be At One Bartender Challenge competitor to win the title twice, as he reclaimed his 2013 victory title.

Ricardas won over the judges by mixing up five drinks including a Straight Up Daiquiri and Cuban Zombie. He said: “I’m so proud to have won the Bartender Challenge for a second time.

“Each year the competition gets tougher as everyone behind a Be At One bar wants to win and has great passion for serving fantastic cocktails and providing a unique guest experience.”

Winning £2,000, Ricardas will also join seven other carefully selected Be At One bartenders in Ibiza to show off his award-winning skills at a Be At One pop up bar at Ibiza Rocks on September 22.