Jewellery Quarter gin bar 40 St Pauls has been the toast of tipplers far and wide since it opened its doors six years ago.
In fact it was named the World’s Best Gin Bar back in 2019. But that didn’t stop it from almost closing recently. Owner Amanjot Singh Johal feared he would have to call time on his beloved bar when he was struck with a health disaster - breaking his ankle and being left unable to work.
But after reaching out to fellow local bartenders and owners he was greeted with a flurry of support and the community rallied round him, giving up their time and expertise to help Amanjot keep his award-winning cocktail bar open.
Between them, some of the most respected names in the Birmingham bar scene have joined forces to take care of one of their own - putting on themed takeover evenings and creating one-off events to ensure the bar’s survival.
Brummies are renowned for their generous spirit, and at a time when hospitality is struggling amid the cost of living crisis, Amanjot says he’s been humbled by the kindness and generosity of his fellow bartenders.
“Having barely survived the pandemic I was looking forward to a more stable year in 2022 before breaking my ankle, which proved to be a traumatic experience that nearly closed my business.
“Sadly, my ankle never healed properly and I’m about to have a second operation, meaning 8 weeks in a wheelchair or on crutches. As a small bar, this would have closed me for that period and I would never have come back from it. Devastated at the thought, I reached out to the community of bars and people in the city who between them have come together to help me survive by giving up their time to keep me open and able to pay bills whilst I’m recovering from this harrowing experience.”
To attract guests, each weekend will have its own theme and will showcase what the people and bars that answered his call are about. Amanjot says the goal is to make it feel like a festival of the Birmingham bar scene, and what makes its independent hospitality scene so lively and unique.
“It’s a truly wonderful thing for a community to come together to help one of their own in need, but especially an industry that has been battered and bruised by so many of the challenges we face at the moment.
“These are all independent business owners who care about making the city a better place or legends in the game and people I really looked up to when I was learning my craft as a bartender. I cannot thank them enough for stepping up for me.”
The first takeover was a great success, with The Gintleman’s Carl Hawkins offering tastings combing gin cocktails with storytelling. In coming weeks guests can expect takeovers from the likes of Passing Fancies – recently voted one of the best bars in the country – plus local drinks heroes such as Toby Heap and Julian Rose-Gibbs who will all be running takeovers and tasting events.
According to the 40 St Paul’s owner, hundreds of people within the Birmingham bar scene came together to respond both privately and publicly offering to help, with everything from glass collecting to these 3-day takeovers.
“These people have honestly saved my business. It shows how much Birmingham cares for one of their own, how supportive the industry is in this city, and how much of a collective we are,” concludes Amanjot.
Tommy Matthews, who co-owns Passing Fancies in Digbeth, says it was a given that fellow hospitality professionals would step forward to help Amanjot, noting the importance of community values.
“At Passing Fancies we have community at the heart of what we do. When Amanjot asked for help it was a no-brainer we’d support him during this tough time. As an industry, the more we work together the more we thrive. We approached other local hospitality professionals with the aim of turning a negative into a positive. Birmingham responded with overwhelming kindness, and the upcoming pop ups and events will help turn a sad situation into something great for the city.”
The 40 St Paul’s takeovers continue this weekend with Jules from The Anchor in Digbeth showcasing his favourite cocktails spanning his career as a bartender in Birmingham. Events and updates can be found on the 40 St Paul’s Instagram page.