London Cocktail Club

Last year, JJ Goodman celebrated a decade of shaking up the UK bar scene courtesy of his lively and legendary “London Cocktail Concept” – an award-winning, nine-strong group of bars renowned for good times, great cocktails and top tunes.

Back in 2008, having cut his bartender teeth at the equally iconic B@1 bar chain (who also combined quick yet quality cocktails with a proper unpretentious party vibe), JJ Goodman and his best friend from school, James “Hoppy” Hopkins opened the Covent Garden Cocktail Club using a small loan from JJ’s mum Lizzie.

They were soon blazing a trail across the capital’s cocktail scene and their stock rose further when, a year later, they won “The Restaurant”, securing he backing of legendary restaurateur Raymond Blanc and Dragons’ Den’s Sarah Willingham.

Expansion in London and beyond ensued, alongside multiple awards, and now LCC has established itself as one of the most successful bar brands in Britain – and each and every one of its venues prides itself on being the ultimate party bar with drinking, dancing and maybe a little bit of debauchery.

We spoke to JJ about the importance of music across his venues.

When you started out, how important was music in designing the LCC concept?

Very important! I wanted to essentially create the ultimate house party in a bar. At the time you could go to a cocktail bar but there was no real party atmosphere, so then you would have to go to a party bar but then they would not have cocktails on offer. I couldn’t understand why you couldn’t have both. Great drinks and a great/fun atmosphere.

What kind of music do you play at the London Cocktail Club and why?

I have a rule that 90% of the music must be recognized by 90% of our customers. So I’m not too fussed by the genre, as long as people know the track and start singing along to it. Music is great way of connecting everyone in the room. The LCC prides itself on being an unpretentious party venue – how does the music reflect this? By not being afraid to play the songs most people think they are “too cool” or “too old” to listen to. For example, if I put on “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston, by the time the first chorus comes in everybody is singing along.

How does the music evolve throughout the evening? Do you have a rotation policy?

We do have playlists set up for each part of the evening. However, this is not set in stone, as it’s not uncommon to walk into one of our venues and find people dancing on their table at 6pm on a Tuesday. We expect our staff to judge each night accordingly. Obviously, if there is an older crowd in at 4:30pm who have just finished work they may not appreciate “Rage Against the Machine” right out the gate!

Who designs your music?

We have playlists created by myself and previous members of the company who had a very good eye (or ear) for great music. These playlists form the cornerstone of each venue’s music programme.

In your experience, does the music affect the behaviour of customers?

Absolutely! An upbeat song with a good tempo will dramatically lift someone’s mood and also the way in which they interact with their friends or even other guests. As mentioned before, music brings people together, so if the music is known by the majority of the people in the bar there is a higher chance they will sing along, dance along and interact with others because of this.

Are there particular types of music that inspire specific drinks? For example, do people ask for tequila when you play, we don’t know, “La Bamba”?

Ha ha, not sure about when you play “La Bamba”, but definitely when you play the tequila song or “Shots” by Pitbull. “Cream” by Prince always reminds me of doing a screaming orgasm routine back in my bartending days.

What music do you think suits different spirits? Bourbon? Tequila? Vodka? Gin?

I would say bourbon goes well with rock ’n’ roll, Tequila and vodka with pop/mainstream and gin probably with hip hop (or maybe I’m just thinking of “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg, ha ha!)

Can you tell me about LCC Radio?

This is a list of recommended playlists linked to my personal Spotify account for anyone who wants to throw down an LCC-style party at their home.

Where do you think bars go wrong with their music policy?

I definitely think a lot of bars neglect their music policy. The main thing is training your staff
how to play music, and also understanding its importance. You often go into a bar and they are playing some really obscure track from a band that are not known. We have a whole training section in our training manual on “Atmospherics” which goes into detail about music, lighting and temperature, which all need to be spot on. Again, it all comes down to training your staff.

Do you use DJs? If so, what do you ask from them?

We do not use DJs at LCC. Our staff are the DJs in terms of knowing what song to play and when and reading the room.

Is there any style of music/tracks that you won’t play?

Not really. I think at some point we have played every genre known to man!

What do you think is the ultimate party tune/ LCC tune and why?

Wow – tough question. Too many to pick just one. But some of our big time hits “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance With Somebody”.

How do you keep in touch with the latest music trends?

We rely heavily on our staff to keep their playlists up to date. We have so many staff working for us now and most of them are below the age of 30, so they seem to know what’s trending and what’s not.

Has music inspired any of your cocktails?

Absolutely. We had a drink on the menu years ago called ‘Pirate Radio’ which was obviously rum based and when the drink arrived, it came with a token to request one song. Our “Reggae Rum Punch” is still a big hit and inspired by the Caribbean and Reggae music. Another hit drink was our “Club Tropicana” created by Robb Collins.

What’s your preferred kicking out tune?

We usually go with some big singalongs for the last 10 minutes. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith, “Wonderwall” by Oasis, etc. When we need customers to leave, the music is turned right down, the manager stands by the door and gives a warm goodbye and handshake to each and every customer.


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