Fourth and Church on wine, ecommerce and world domination

Restaurant and wine shop Fourth and Church has been a Hove hotspot since 2015, but in 2019 owners Paul Morgan and Sam Pryor changed the interior to place more emphasis on both the wine offer and the bar. When Covid hit, the team made the most of the venue’s off-licence. Morgan explains how the landscape has changed over the past two years and what the future holds

Our aim was always to have both retail and drink-in. I was mainly inspired by spending a lot of time in Italy and Spain. Having been in restaurants and hotels and working on the wine merchant side of things, I didn’t want to have a straight shop and I certainly didn’t want to open a restaurant because I always felt that people’s perception of wine in restaurants and hotels wasn’t where I was, really. I enjoy, on my travels, going into places and picking stuff out, browsing the shelves – it’s all a lot more casual.

We’ve always had an on-licence and an off-licence, so when lockdown happened, we were able to keep the doors open. We have quite a range of merchants we buy from, so we put mixed cases together and we have a great mailing list made up of both diners and those who have been buying wine.

We also have a strong neighbourhood following and people who trust us to put together wine selections based on what they like. We were doing enough to pay fixed costs. At that point we made the decision to develop the website.

We’re currently developing our website to be more of an ecommerce site rather than a website with an ecommerce side. We’ll launch in October because now we’re a little busier with diners it’s a bit harder for people to get to the shelves. We have a lot of success online by putting selections together. For example, I’ve got 10 different Palomino-based wines, unfortified from the Cádiz and Jerez regions. Those wines I love and they’re very cool, but they don’t sell themselves. We’d have them on by the glass, highlight them in our Sunday wine sessions and have them available online as part of a collection. At the moment, our split is 70:30 in favour of the restaurant but with the new ecommerce platform I hope this will change radically and feed the restaurant with more exciting lines.

I haven’t got a world-domination plan, but I would like to open one or two more venues. I’ve got an idea of where we want to be – both within the Brighton & Hove area and a bit further afield. The main problem we find is getting a premises with both an on and an off-licence.

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