I opened a wine bar in Tokyo
I recently opened a wine bar in the Omotesando area of Tokyo, a very stylish area of the city.
I'd like to post a brief outline of the process I went through in establishing the bar below.
I sourced the property through a friend. It is a two storey building, built in the late 50s with 4 apartments of 45 sq.m. My friend leased the whole building with the intent to renovate and then lease the apartments to travellers on Airbnb.com. I intern lease the wine bar space from him.I was very lucky to source such a cool building in a great location. The place had not been lived in for 10 years or so and was very run down when we took it over. It was overgrown with ivy and other plants outside and the interior was quite rundown but structurally sound and we could see the potential in the space with some cosmetic updates.
The bar was a standard 1LDK type with 6 mat tatami room - That was the first thing that needed to go. We took out a (very thin) wall and tatami mats making the whole space look quite a lot bigger. We then had a carpenter come in and build a bar counter. I then faced a big job of painting the whole interior of the space - the bar, walls and ceiling then lacquer the wooden floor. This was quite a job but luckily had the help of several friends and fuelled by numerous bottles of wine, took 3 days or so but the place was completely transformed once we had finished. So that left me with a wine bar but without any furniture. A couple of trips to IKEA fixed that and after quite a bit of spanner spinning we were pretty much ready to go.
The concept of the bar is quite simple - Good quality wines, at a reasonable price, all wines available by the glass in an interesting, relaxing atmosphere. Basically I made the wine bar that I wanted to go to.
I have been to various wine bars around the city over the years and often felt frustrated at the lack of good wines available by the glass, not to mention the (often small) amount of wine that is served.
I wanted it to be a wine bar. Not a bar bar. We serve wine only - no beer, no cocktails or spirits. From a business point of view, this also simplifies operations significantly but wanted to focus on one thing (wine) and do it well.
I source the wines from a friend of mine who runs a wine importing company. he is very knowledgeable about wines, and he imports only wines that he likes himself. All are quite unusual to come across in Tokyo, but all are great quality and provide really good value for the price. My importer imports his wines directly from each winery so provides very good quality wines for the price, which I can pass on to my customers.
Next came what do do with food. Not offering any food is cruel - anyone who has had a couple of glasses of a heavy red on an empty stomach can attest to this. I feel wine tastes better and is more enjoyable to drink while eating something so I decided to go with some simple but great quality snacks provided by a contact of mine. He is an american guy that produces awesome homemade smoked products- Smoked salmon, smoked ham, smoked gouda, cheddar, blue cheese and smoked almonds. I felt that this a good balance of being able to offer some great quality snacks while keeping preparation and potential waste to a minimum.
We have been up and running for a couple of months now. While timing of the opening of the wine was far from ideal - the middle of winter and we were too late for the end of year Bonenkai season, we have established ourselves pretty well. We have quite a few regular customers that live or work near the bar who drop by for a quite drink as well as a good amount of friends and travellers staying nearby, which makes for quite an interesting mix of local and international clientele.
Overall I am pleased to have been able to do what I set out to achieve - An interesting, fun bar to enjoy a quiet drink of good quality wine for a reasonable price.
The Bar is called The Rusty Trombone. Please find us on Facebook.
The bar’s Facebook page is here.
Thanks for reading the entire article and everyone's support.
As a small bonus for Deep Japan readers, anyone that comes to the Rusty Trombone and say you've seen this article is entitled to a free drink on me - Take you choice of Sparkling, White or Red wine.
Come on over and I'll buy you a drink! ^-^