Oxford Wine Company sells café

Independent merchant The Oxford Wine Company has sold its café in Summertown following a massive rent and rate hike, in order to concentrate on its more central city outlets.

The Oxford Wine Cafe’s Jericho site continues to thrive, managing director Ted Sandbach told db.

The move comes in the same week that the company opened its new shop in Turl Street in the centre of Oxford, and shortly before the opening of a new late-night, live-music bar aimed at the over-25s, Sandy’s Piano Bar, in August.

In an email to customers, owner and managing director Ted Sandbach said the café had been sold to “experienced” new owners as the company intended to focus on its central Oxford outlets. Initially, it will continue to operate as it is now, before being re-branded and “enhanced” as a wine bar and restaurant by the new owners. The new team already own two restaurants in the city and are planning two more. In a separate five-year deal The Oxford Wine Company will the supply wines for all five restaurants.

Speaking to db today, Sandbach said all the company’s main operations were now in the centre of the town, which made it easier to manage.

The company opened the Oxford Wine Café in February 2013 on the site of the former Summertown Wine Café in north Oxford, and at the time, Sandbach said the venture gave the company the “perfect opportunity to tap into the discerning north Oxford market”.  A second café in Jericho, in central Oxford, followed in April 2015.

However he later admitted that the Summertown site was more of a “destination” than the “buzzing”, trendier and bigger Jericho café in the centre of the city, which benefited from a heavier footfall and a greater spend per customer. Furthermore, he added that following a strong 2016 and 2015, 2017 was likely to prove “tricky” due to the volatility of the exchange rate and its impact on margins, along with the roll out of new business rates, which saw one of the company’s sites being hit by rates hikes of around 87%.

He told db today that although the site had been profitable, he had been worried that the “huge rate and rent rise” this year in the future, would eventually have made it difficult for the site to continue to trade successfully, contributing to the decision to sell after receiving “a very good offer”.

“It was the one side of the business that was a slight worry,” he said, before adding that The Oxford Wine Café in Jericho and the shop in the Botley road “continue to thrive”.

Speaking to db back in January, Sandbach said that the original intention has been to concentrate on the wine café concept and the company’s wholesale business as these were more profitable and easier to manage than a traditional wine shop, but the central location of the new shop was “irresistible”, given its accessibility for tourists, students and staff at Oxford University who were less likely to visit the other outlets. He said it would add “a good balance to the retail portfolio”, which also includes the newly refurbished HQ and warehouse in Standlake.

The new Sandy’s Piano Bar, which is being driven by Sandbach’s son, George, is set to open next month.

“Oxford is crying out for some more late-night venues, it will provide a different angle on the wine bar,” Sandbach said.

In 2016, the company shut its Cirencester shop, which Sandbach said was “disappointing” but was due to the rural “outpost” location being too far from the company’s Oxford heartland.

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