Japanese cocktail bar Ikigai to open in Stirchley

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Ikigai currently serves food and drink above 1,000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter

A cocktail bar with a focus on seasonal Japanese ingredients is set to expand to Stirchley after Birmingham City Council granted an alcohol licence.

Ikigai opened less than two years ago above 1,000 Trades, in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter. Luke Bensley, 32, from Stourbridge, who had previously worked at Michelin-star Opheem, said he wanted to grow his neighbourhood-style bar.

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Speaking at the licence committee meeting, he said: “We a quite successful business at the moment in the Jewellery Quarter. However I’m looking to grow and upon doing research of different areas around Birmingham, Stirchley seems like a place where independent businesses can thrive.

“There are several examples up and down Stirchley, and it seemed like the perfect place for a neighbourhood-style cocktail bar. That’s why I’m so happy to work with residents because the whole point of my business model is to be an addition to the community, not a takeaway.”

Among the authentic Asian flavours on offer at Ikigai, rarities such as pandan, a tropical plant, and ube, also known as purple yam, will be listed as ingredients on their drinks menus.

Ikigai, crowned newcomer of the year by Top 50 Cocktail Bars – compiled by the bar industry – will join another world-renowned bar Couch. Its Stirchley bar, located on Pershore Road, is expected to open in November.

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The bar had won the coveted best drink award at Birmingham Cocktail Weekend this year with their signature cocktail ‘Koshu’.

Japanese cocktails at IkigaiJapanese cocktails at Ikigai
Japanese cocktails at Ikigai | Fionnuala Bourke

Are there any conditions on the new cocktail bar’s license?

Conditions set upon the bar’s licensable activities include a documented vulnerability policy; risk assessment for door staff where needed; drinks not to be taken outside the boundary of the premises with exception to the tear; and the emptying of bins between the hours of 8am and 8pm only.

Two objections were raised by members of the public, and one was raised by Labour councillor Mary Locke, but was withdrawn after the premises confirmed the adjustment to licensable hours.

All objections related to the late-night licence. One objection read: “I live on Twyning Road close to the premises, which is a residential street mainly made up of families, many with small children.

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“I am concerned a late-night licence would cause a significant increase in late-night noise, littering and public nuisance and anti-social behaviour.”

But Reha Sookraz, representing Mr Bensley, had written to objectors to offer a compromise in licensable hours: “I note your objections and have discussed them with my client. Would changing the end hours of licensable activities from 1am to 11pm (on Sunday to Friday and 12 midnight on Saturday) deal with your concerns in relation to the late hours, the late closing up of the premises and patrons leaving late?

“Also, there will be a sign on the door reminding customers to be mindful of the neighbours and to respectfully leave the premises quietly.”

Ikigai at 1,000 Trades in the Jewellery QuarterIkigai at 1,000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter
Ikigai at 1,000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter | LDRS

In the licensing meeting, Ms Sookraz noted a Stirchley restaurant with similar offerings to Ikigai was granted a licence by the committee with closing hours of midnight.

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She said: “Buddha Belly is a neighbouring restaurant and there are meals and tables there. It is important to note that Ikigai is very much similar. Drinks will be served at the tables. It is not somewhere where drunk people can just go and ask for drinks. It is mainly based on cocktails.

“Ikigai has built very good relationships. There have not been any complaints yet in regard to noise or fights. This shows that he knows very well how to deal with neighbours, how to handle a business, as well as maintaining the relationships in the community.”

Birmingham City Council’s licensing committee heard how Mr Bensley wanted to focus the new opening on “the art of cocktails”.

The committee added: “The premises was very unlikely to attract problem drinkers, and also unlikely to create a level of noise which could disturb those living nearby.

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“The applicant company’s counsel urged the Sub-Committee to balance the needs of a business which was trying to grow, with the needs of local residents.

“Members considered that the issue was whether the applicant company and the proposed operating schedule were capable of ensuring that the licensing objectives would be upheld.”

Couch cocktail bar in Stirchley Couch cocktail bar in Stirchley
Couch cocktail bar in Stirchley | Couch

What did West Midlands Police say about the alcohol license application?

West Midlands Police found the application to be “entirely satisfactory” with the addition of some conditions, the report noted.

The licence committee concluded: “The director had fifteen years of experience in the licenced trade, and had operated a cocktail bar for two years in the Jewellery Quarter in the centre of Birmingham. He now wanted to open a further premises on Pershore Road.

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“The scope of the application had been amended; the terminal hour had been brought forward to address the concerns of the local community, in accordance with the city council’s statement of licensing policy.”

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