What inspired you to found the Court?
When we first started it was a bit of a passion project of mine. I was working on a different hospitality concept and I had the opportunity to acquire a site in another part of town. I thought, wouldn't it be lovely to try and bring back one of the bars of old: Rick's from Casablanca or the Copacabana. Do something a bit interesting. So I called up my Bradley Theodore, who's the artist involved in the project, and Mr Lyan, who I'd worked with before, and asked if they'd get involved. That started the process.
As the idea developed and we got other partners involved, it felt like just doing a bar like that didn't do the concept justice. We have one of the best teams in the industry, and finding a home that did them justice was just as important. The location was the last thing we came across. When we found the Bag O' Nails, it just seemed right.
This is a place dripping in musical history. The Beatles used to come after their gigs with the Stones, The Who. This is where Paul met his wife Linda. This is where Hendrix first performed in the UK. It's one of the top music venues in town – and to be able to fill it with the food of Tom Sellers, the drinks of Mr Lyan, the flourish of Nikki Tibbles and the art of Bradley Theodore seems like a match made in heaven.
Did any past establishments inspire you when designing the Court?
There were some that inspired us like Studio 54 and Copacabana, but I wanted The Court to feel like something out of a novel. Somewhere that almost doesn't exist anymore; a bit of Gatsby, a bit of Rick's from Casablanca. Something that's a bit out of time. You come down here and it feels like an elegant venue in the Thirties – like that Owen Wilson movie Midnight In Paris, when the clock strikes midnight and suddenly you're transported back to the Twenties. That's a bit like here: it's a timeless room where you can just sit and enjoy yourself. Now that it's open, it's everything I hoped it would be and more.
Our membership profile is decent people. They can tell a good story
How do you define The Court experience?
It's a tricky one, but I think the closest thing is that it's everything to everyone. The Court, for me, is a place that does whatever you want it to. It's got amazing food, it's amazing drink, it's got live music, it's got beautiful art, but it's not about any one part of that – it's whatever you're in the mood for on a particular evening. We have £20 bottles of Bordeaux but we also have £15,000 bottles of Opus One in the cellar. Whatever kind of night you're in the mood for, we can do it. It's just about coming down and enjoying yourself – that is what The Court's quintessentially about, and that is what's defined every part of its design.
Is there anything you particularly look for in a Court member?
Do know you what, I think it's infuriating for my team but the way I describe our membership profile is 'dinner party guests'. It's those people who you actually want to be sat round a table with. I don't care what they do, I don't care how money you have, as long as you've got enough to enjoy the place; what I care about is your character. Our membership profile is decent people. They can tell a good story, they're good company, and they know how to treat other people well.
One of the issue we have in London at the moment is people don't necessarily feel safe going out in certain venues. I want all of our members to feel like they can come here and have a good time and enjoy themselves.
What can Court members expect?
Court members can expect live music every night from seven till 11, some of the best food in town, drinks that are unrivalled in the area by the inimitable Mr Lyan – you'd expect nothing less. I'll be hosting every night, something that used to be par for the course for owners of venues of old but for some reason or another has fallen off the radar. They can also expect surprise acts onstage – we've got incredibly talented performers, incredibly comedians and artists of all different mediums coming down and wanting to get up there. It's not something we'll ever advertise – I personally love the idea it could be anyone at any time up there. We'll also be running events through the year for our members. Our membership revenue is there to reinvest on membership experience: I want people to love it here, and come back day in, day out.
And there's a 24-licence for the private events?
We've got a 24-hour licence for our private events, yes. Obviously we don't expect you to necessarily stay for 24 hours but you're certainly able to go home, sleep it off and come in the morning for a survivor's brunch. I want people to be comfortable and to spend as much time as they want here. Every night we'll be open until 3.30am, except for Saturdays where we close at 12.30am. Equally, if you just want to come for a couple of glasses of wine, a meal, a cocktail or two, we can cater for that as well.
Do you think the market has become oversaturated for members' clubs?
I think every private members' club in London does something different, and does it incredibly well, and what they do caters to their particular audience. That's one of the lovely things about London – no matter what you want, there is a place for you. The Court, for me, is a place for people who want a little bit of everything but at different times. It's a place designed to be greater than the sum of its parts.
I want to prove you can succeed in hospitality whilst being decent
Where do you see The Court in five years?
Very simply put, I hope it's a place that people know is good for a good time. The venues of the past, these are places that existed before smartphones, before social media. You weren't able to always get in touch with your friends, your colleagues, and say 'meet me at X'. You had to just know that X would be great, that the room would be full of fantastic people, you had to know the entertainment would be sensational night in, night out. I would like the Court to be that – I hope that everyone knows, no matter what their plans for the night, they can just come down here and enjoy themselves.
Certainly, because of the place, and because I love it, we're looking into other sites, other venues – both domestic and international. We're an ambition group but for now our attention is focused on making this one, our London home, be the best possible place it can be.
This is clearly a project very close to your heart...
This has been my life for two years. I'm one of those incredibly sad people who spends every waking hour thinking of how to better the venue for our members, but even sadder I spend every subconscious hour dreaming about it. And even worse, I wake up and think, 'Christ, that was a great idea, I must write it down'.
It's a great thing for me that a number of our team just said how much they enjoy working here. My ethos is 'when in doubt, be nice' – I want to prove you can succeed in hospitality whilst being decent, and they buy into that. Passion is required these days for entrepreneurship, and for us to hold an unfair share of the hearts and minds of the great talent in town, requires bit of investment – it's not just my business, it's somewhere I love. It's just a lovely place to be. If I have to spend every night here, I'm quite happy!
Finally, is there one single feature of The Court that you're particularly proud of?
[Smiling] I'm proud that there's no single feature that I'm particularly proud of.