With headlines about the soaring coast of electricity and gas and how the hospitality trade is suffering, opening a bar right now might seem to be flying in the face of convention. But not for Gareth James.
Mr James is well-known in mid Wales and beyond for running Irie’s – the only authentic Caribbean bar in Aberystwyth for many years.
And after several years away from the business, he’s just opened its doors once more.
“It’s Aberystwyth’s best-kept secret” he said, eager to share it with the town he loves.
Irie’s, at the corner of Northgate Street and Thespian Street, has returned as a “distilled, but far from watered down form of what it once was”.
And it features a diverse collection of rum from all over the world, whether it be local Welsh rum or the high-quality imported bottles from Barbados and the Caribbean, Colombia and beyond.
“If you came before it closed its doors, you know that there is nothing else like this in Aberystwyth” Mr James said. “I promise that you will step back into a bar that feels exactly the same as you remember.”
Although rum isn’t often thought of as having a sweet taste, it is made predominantly out of sugar.
Mr James is a connoisseur of the tipple, promising that customers will “fall in love with the drink, rather than the drinking”.
“There’s nobody who doesn’t like rum,” he said, adding that while many have tried Bacardi or Captain Morgan’s with cola, there’s a far wider and varied way to sip and enjoy a drink that’s been distilled almost as long as sugar has been around.
Irie’s will host its own rum clinic, offering patrons the opportunity to work their way through the ranks of rum, tasting 15 kinds from all over the world, and learn about each one from the man who knows everything there is to know about them. In his own words: “You need to do the rum clinic.”
“Anyone would get it,” he said. “If you lined up rums of different prices, anyone could correctly guess which is which. The more the price goes up, the more you get out of your drink. If the price doubles, the quality triples.”
The atmosphere of Irie’s is far from what you’d expect at your regular bar.
“We’re the coolest cats in the cave,” he said.