Queen Street’s fortunes look set to change. Once the epitome of a classy shopping street, in recent years it’s been populated with bars and clubs whose customers are more inclined to buy a round of shots than a nice bottle of plonk.

But along with their neighbours at country music bar Cowboy & Co, new wine bar 31 Queen Street is determined to have a hand in changing the tone of the area.

Cozy and stylish, the bar is run by Manchester-born Rosh Coram with support from her partner Sarah who, as an food hygiene enforcement officer for the council, is a ringing endorsement for the bar herself. Rosh meanwhile has almost two decades of experience in hospitality and has worked closely with sommeliers to bring a much-needed injection of class to the area.

The bar has opened against the backdrop of redevelopment plans for the area. Next week will sees both the launch of a public consultation on a planned £9.8m refurbishment of Central Library and an extension to The Grundy art gallery, as well of the launch of the ‘Be Who You Want To Be’ initiative that aims to build on the strength of LGBTQ+ businesses in the Claremont Ward to create a new queer quarter.

They might have to slog it out until the transformations begin, but 31 Queen Street is perfectly positioned to be a part of it and they’re not shy of making moves towards it while they wait.

On a rainy and windy Thursday night in January, 21 locals turned up for the bar’s first wine tasting evening. Rosh is aiming for them to be a monthly occurrence, with a different vineyard or country showcased each time. For the opening night of the series they began on home soil – with English vineyard Silverhand Estate hosting.

Silverhand is closer to the champagne region in geography than it is to Blackpool and their vineyard provides the same chalky soil that’s perfect for growing the same key grape varieties.

I was skeptical. My only experience of English wine was when someone once misguidedly bought me a bottle of Three Mills fruity red. Anyone who has made the same grave error will know where I’m coming from. For red drinkers like me, we were warned at the start by host, Ellie, it could be a long night. English wine tends to be white and often sparkling. But working our way through eight of the county’s finest and a generous charcuterie board proved no real hardship.

From their 500-acre estate in Kent, Silverhand is a family-owned organic and ethical vineyard that’s aiming to redefine what English wine can be. There seems to be no reason they can’t – they are closer to the champagne region in geography than they are to Blackpool and their vineyard provides the same chalky soil that’s perfect for growing the key grape varieties used in premium sparkling wine production.

The vineyard also offers a more reasonable price point than a lot of English wines (not Three Mills which is less than a fiver in B&M – I clearly have cheap friends) and a bottle of their light, fresh and fun English fizzes will cost around £30 in number 31. The wine tasting event was £35 and being encouraged to sniff and swill with every mouthful meant the equivalent amount lasted a hell of a lot longer. Ellie’s extensive expertise were a welcome bonus.

And there’s far more to 31 Queen Street than English wine on an ordinary night, of course. Roch offers wines for all palates and purses alongside cocktails (done right, she insists) and other drinks. The charcuterie board was the perfect addition to the wine tasting but is available anytime along with other sharing boards and a tempting menu of small plates such as bao buns, arancini and nduja prawns. On Saturdays from 1-5pm there’s a bottomless brunch offer.

Chatting to Rosh and Sarah a couple of glasses of fizz in and its clear these women are passionate about bringing something of quality to an area that desperately needs an injection of life. They are confident the area is on its uppers and are already discussing taking on a second venue. They’ve built a genuine friendship with their Cowboy neighbours and are already collaborating on themed nights.

And the couple want to offer space for community events – inviting women’s groups to use their space and ensuring that they are fully inclusive. During the wine tasting one woman wandered in clearly not knowing the script for the evening but was welcomed by Rosh to enjoy the tail end of the event with us at no charge.

Clearly I needed converting to not only English wine but to the idea of a night out on Queen Street too. Judging by the fact I was dancing to Jolene next door but one at midnight on a weeknight, 31 Queen Street did a pretty good job it.

Follow 31 Queen Street on Facebook and keep your eye on Blackpool Social club listings for future wine tastings and other events.

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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