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Let us entertain you!

High hopes rest on New Year after another tough year. We ask James Thompson, Director of 1886 Bar and Grill on the Isle of Man, for his tips on sending out 2021 with a bang.

I don’t see us as just a bar or a nightclub; we’re an entertainment business. You have to entertain people, or they’ll sit at home with a drink instead,” says James. Since he opened 1886 Bar and Grill in 2019 with partner Diane, they’ve become the go-to venue on the Isle of Man for an evening of good food, drinks and entertainment. James explains: “The building used to be the old post office in Douglas, and we’ve transformed it into a bar, cocktail lounge, restaurant and function room over four floors. We really can cater for everyone, from 18 to 80! The younger people love the bar with its DJs and fantastic atmosphere and the older generation enjoy the cocktail lounge with live music. The function space and restaurant appeal to all customers.”

The place to go

“We moved to the Isle of Man eight years ago and noticed that hardly anyone went out for New Year’s Eve. You could turn up somewhere at 11pm and it would be half empty. We’ve definitely changed that since opening 1886,” James explains.

“For our first New Year’s, we made the decision
to not take bookings or charge entry. The place was absolutely packed. It was the first time in a long time that the Isle of Man had seen a big night out at the end of the year and customers loved it.

“In the Isle of Man, we’ve been relatively lucky with Covid-19. It hasn’t affected us here as much as on the mainland and although we’ve had lockdowns, they have been much shorter. This meant we could put on a party for New Year’s Eve last year. It was really popular and we hope to go one step further this year.”

Bigger plans

“As in previous years, for 2021 we’ll be making good use of the full venue. On the ground floor, we’ll have DJs playing dance music; in the cocktail lounge there will be live music; the restaurant will serve food until 10pm; and new for this year, we’re doing a sit-down Christmas meal in the function room with live music. Our older customers asked for it, so we thought we’d try it. And it’s sold out super quick.

“Each year we like to make improvements. You can’t sit on your laurels in this business. You need to be constantly improving what you’re offering to customers. Listen to them. If they suggest something and it makes sense, we go for it.

“At midnight there will be a piper on the upper floors. While in the bar, we’ll do a fun balloon drop after the countdown. We put £5, £10 or £20 notes and drink vouchers (such as a free cocktail) in the balloons, so everyone goes crazy for them.

“If things take a downturn with Covid-19 and we’re forced to close, we’ll do food and drink deliveries instead. Always good to have a contingency!”

““You can’t sit on your laurels in this business. You need to be constantly improving what you’re offering customers. Listen to them. If they suggest something and it makes sense, we do it””
- James Thompson, Director, 1886 Bar and Grill

How to keep customers entertained

“We’re fortunate to have different spaces for different types of music, but any venue can really benefit from putting on quality entertainment.

“I recommend trying live music if you haven’t before. Our customers love it. There are some great local bands here, we’ve got everything from country and western, to rock and pop.

“In between the live sets, we have big screens that we pull down which show sports. They cover the next band or DJ setting up and keep everyone engaged in the meantime. Choose bands who set up quickly or make sure you’ve got entertainment to fill the gaps.”

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