Steve Ball, founder of the Columbo Group, has been at the centre of London’s nightlife scene for almost two decades. His rise to prominence came with the launch of Fabric, where he worked as a promoter, before going on to open the Old Queen’s Head in Islington in 2006. Since then his portfolio of atmospheric party venues has increased – Paradise By Way of Kensal Green is one the go-to party venues for a beautiful West London crowd, while XOYO pulls in the East London hipsters. 2014 has seen the launch of two new projects: the Blues Kitchen Shoreditch (a Zeitgesity BBQ, bourbon and blues joint) and Cat and Mutton (a pub-cum-speakeasy-cocktail-bar in London Fields). We sat down with Steve to find out more about life on the London restaurant and nightlife scene.
What is so distinctive about the Columbo Group and its venues?
All of our venues are defined from top to bottom by the passion of our staff who work there – it’s what distinguishes us and sets us apart. Of course as a business we are motivated by profit but it’s far from our primary objective; our strong values and a steadfast belief in what we do are our key motivating factors, which breeds passion in our team.
You’ve done North, West and East London? Any plans to open something in South London?
Yes we certainly do, however sadly I can’t elaborate at this moment in time.
All the Columbo Group venues are known for their atmosphere – what’s the secret to getting that right?
There’s no real secret, just meticulous attention to detail, because every little thing matters.
How do you think the London restaurant and nightlife scene is evolving?
I think there’s a dichotomy at work in both areas here. With regards to London’s restaurant scene; it’s been thrilling to watch the rise in the number of excellent independent restaurants and pop-ups in the city, yet at the same time our high streets have become more and more homogenised. Both being fuelled by the fact that we’re all eating out so much more now.
As for London’s nightlife scene, the number of decent nightclubs in the city has dramatically reduced in the past few years yet ironically London’s nightlife scene seems more vibrant than ever, it’s just moved underground, to warehouses and other more unusual spaces.
Who or where do you look at and think “I wish I’d thought of that”?
I think Street Feast is fantastic. Not only an insanely great idea but I think they do it so well.
What trends do you think are going to typify 2015?
I hope the rise of independent, esoteric operators continues unabated and I’m sure we’ll see a more general move towards healthier eating out.
What new projects are the Columbo Group working on?
We’ve only recently opened the Cat and Mutton in London Fields and the Blues Kitchen Shoreditch, so it’s been a very busy six months for us. That said, we do have a couple of very exciting projects in the pipeline…
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