As well as being a great tasting alcohol-free beer, Lucky Saint is now the proud operator of a London pub. The BII’s Head of Communications Molly Davis CBII speaks to the Head of On Trade London, quality & pub Jimmy Adams and licensee Ludo Bathgate MBII to find out more.
The Lucky Saint sits in the perfect London location. Just on the edge of Regent’s Park in Marylebone, it occupies a traditional corner plot, and is one of those gems that makes you feel at home as soon as you walk in the door. Just last year, however, the pub was a dilapidated shell, having stood empty since before the pandemic, in its former guise as the infamous Masons Arms.
The team from alcohol-free beer brand, Lucky Saint, have never shied away from a challenge, and taking on the huge task of bringing this much loved pub back to its former glory was no exception. After months of hard work and a steep learning curve for a business that had never run a pub before, let alone taken on a major building project, The Lucky Saint opened its doors for the first time in March 2023.
The ethos of Lucky Saint as a brand is about so much more than just beer without a hangover, and licensee Ludo Bathgate MBII, and Head of On Trade London, Quality & Pub, Jimmy Adams, have strived to make their pub something extra special. Everyone who is part of the company lives and breathes their values, now from their new permanent offices above the pub itself, following rapid team expansion that necessitated 10 office moves in four years.
From the get-go, the Lucky Saint team were determined to create a pub that became the heart of its community once again, a safe and inclusive place that local people could call their own – a pub for modern times.
Jimmy commented: “When the Masons Arms shut its doors in 2020, it was a community institution, and the closure had a hugely detrimental effect on the residents in the local area. We want to be open as much as possible to give people a space to come, meet, hang out with their families and friends.”
As the project got underway, local residents were curious about the refurb of their beloved pub, and the Marylebone Residents Association met with Jimmy on several occasions. Their support and desire for the pub to be open again, and be successful, was a great boost during the inevitable challenges the transformation of a historic venue brought.
Making the Lucky Saint an accessible and friendly space for residents, local office workers and hospital staff was a priority for all involved, and even in the first few months of trading, it is clear that this approach is bearing fruit. BBC Radio One DJ, Greg James, who was an avid fan of the Masons Arms before its closure, has also been delighted to see the site come back to life again as a local pub close to the BBC studios.
As well as welcoming customers from the local community and businesses, the refurbishment was designed to offer flexible meeting space, enabling not only the Lucky Saint team to work from the pub, but also providing a haven for remote and hybrid workers to hot desk in style.
The business isn’t just about the building, beautiful as it is, with reclaimed windows from the original venue keeping some of the nostalgic London pub charm alive. The best pubs are all about their people. At the helm, licensee and General Manager, Ludo spoke about his approach to getting the best team in place.
“I’ve been in bars since I was 19 – back home (in Australia) I went from a glass collector right through to a supervisor role. Moving over here, I went straight into management with Bar Works.
“Hospitality is seen as much more of a career in Australia, as it is in Europe. Trying to get young people here involved and seeing it as a career option and not just a stop gap job is a real challenge, but it’s important for our sector to break that mould.”
Despite having a lot of university students working part-time whilst getting their degrees, the onboarding process is the same for anyone joining the team, a process that goes much deeper than just how to pull a pint or clear a table. Jimmy and Ludo want anyone working with them to feel part of the Lucky Saint brand as a whole and everyone is given the opportunity to learn about all channels in the business.
Ludo believes the key to engaged staff who will stay and grow with you is real mix of factors, from transparency about how the business runs, to better pay and an easier work week, enabling staff to have a great work/life balance. Employing more people, doing less hours and giving flexibility around shifts, adds another challenge for a brand-new business, but with the support of the local community and the opportunity to be part of an exciting, fast-growing brand, they are off to a flying start.
The diverse range of drinks available for guests obviously features fantastic low and no alcohol brands, including spirits from Pentire and Everleaf, but there is something for everyone, with the ethos centred around quality and inclusivity as a priority. As a relatively new pub, they have the ability to experiment with the range, but sourcing partners based on aligned values and sustainability is of vital importance to the team.
Although Ludo has a wealth of experience in the industry, becoming a BII member has given him and the team access to the support and key information that they will need on their journey.
Jimmy also credits the collaboration across every part of the industry as a major part of the future direction for the Lucky Saint. “We have been on such a steep learning curve from the beginning of this project, and so many people have helped us along the way. We are looking forward to using the collective insight of BII members to shape what we do next.”
It is clear that the Lucky Saint is leading the charge in the next generation of pubs, matching the needs of the community, local businesses and its team to perfection. We can’t wait for what’s next for this incredible pub and the wider Lucky Saint brand.
What would you do differently, knowing what you do now?
• “Take advice and input from a wide range of sources, but also take the time to figure out what will work for you.”
• “Make sure you get the design right before you start any building or refurbishment. We could have saved ourselves time and money doing it right the first time.”
• “We should have hired Ludo earlier in the process
– he had the practical experience we needed to inform the way we designed key areas, such as the bar.”