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Cardiff Character: Shane Kennedy

Sat in a cosy corner of independent bar and music venue, Ten Feet Tall, the new assistant general manager Shane Kennedy explains with a soft Irish accent, “My general ethos is drink less, drink well.”

He’s only been there for two and half weeks, but it’s clear Kennedy fits in as his new colleagues greet him warmly and he nods appreciatively whilst they pass by, preparing for the evening shift. Against the dim lights and ambient jazz soundtrack he looks every inch the dapper gentleman. Tall, slim and dark-haired the 26 year old cuts a sharp figure in tweed trousers, a white shirt and braces. He wouldn’t be out of place in a 1920s swinging Jazz club.

Shane Kennedy 10 Feet Tall Profile Shot

Twiddling the end of his moustache Kennedy recalls how, whilst studying Fine Art in Bath Spa, he would regularly visit Cardiff with his brother, but saw it as “A really grotty and grimy scene.” However since moving to Cardiff when he graduated in 2007 he admits that it has become more homely: “It’s a really nice city. People are friendly, quite similar to people where I’m from.” He does not see himself returning to settle in the village of Sion Mills, County Tyrone. Having lived in Cardiff for ‘about eight years’ (he is vague about the specificities of his own life, but ask him anything about the ageing of alcohol and there is no uncertainty), he is now well-established in the city’s bar scene.

Challenging ideas

Whilst working in Cardiff bars Kennedy has witnessed what he calls “problem drinkers”. But rather than hauling out anyone who may have had a bit too much, Kennedy has a different approach: “If you’re inebriated we won’t kick you out. We’ll politely ask you not to drink for half an hour and perhaps have a glass of water. We give people the opportunity to sober up a little bit.” This is all part of his mission to encourage the public to understand alcohol better.

Kennedy has earned an impressive reputation working behind the city’s independent cocktail bars. After six months training at TGI Friday he moved onto Lab 22 and later Mocka Lounge, where he has had his own creation immortalised on the menu and where, until his recent departure he ran the monthly Pourfection Academy elite bartending competition: “The whole idea was to encourage Cardiff bartenders to look at alcohol in a wider breadth than the standard pub service. It’s about making drinks interesting and challenging the whole idea of what a drink is.”

Job dedication

Whilst at Lab 22 Kennedy was inspired by the “creative and inventive element of cocktail making,” and for him, as an artist (he still does occasional promotional work), cocktails are an art form. But the knowledge behind the process is as important as the outcome: “If anyone ever orders a gin off me God help them because they’re getting a 25 minute presentation from me on which gin they should drink and why.” Living in a house of bartenders, he lives and breathes the job. He admits that shifts are tough and he can “easily walk two or three miles up and down the bar.”  It’s hard to remain professional at times. Kennedy jokes that after one occasion with a difficult customer he was tempted to “smash a glass in his face.” However, despite having spent the day ill in bed, Kennedy strides over to the bar for another evening at work.

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