Wales. Golf. Madrid — Gareth Bale’s new business venture has two out of three of them.
The Wales and Real Madrid forward is the partner in Par 59, a new bar, restaurant and mini-golf venue which is opening in Cardiff city centre. The bar, which is being developed by the team behind Cardiff’s The Depot, is tapping into a growing market and one that a young, non-drinking Bale would have enjoyed growing up in in the city.
And Bale anticipates making more moves into the industry.
“I’m not going to be playing football forever so we are interested in doing these kind of things, especially in Wales as we want to give back to the city I was born in and we want to grow Cardiff as much as we can,” he says.
“By putting Elevens [the city centre sports bar he already owns in partnership with Brains] and Par 59 there we are adding to the city, hopefully we are expanding it and making it more exciting for youngsters and people in general to do different things and have fun. If there are other opportunities we feel we would like to pursue then we will keep growing as a business and do other things.”
When Bale was young, he never really went out in Cardiff.
“I always focused on my football and I didn’t drink so I never went out too much,” he says.
“That’s why I think by having these businesses, like Par 59, you can still socialise with people that like to go out. It brings everyone together and gives everyone the option to have fun on a night out rather than going out and getting plastered.
“That’s what we are trying, to bring everyone together whether you like to drink or not or whether you you like to just play golf.”
A number of ventures are combining pubs with social sports and they have seen rapid growth in recent years.
Bounce, which centres on ping pong, recently raised $20m at the end of 2019 to expand in the UK and US, while Flight Club, focused on darts, expanded to the US with two venues, and has four sites in the UK. Puttshack, a mini-golf bar, has four venues in London and the south-east, with a Miami venture in the pipeline.
However, Par 59, unlike Puttshack, is for adults only.
“We have looked at models like that,” Bale says, acknowledging it is a growing market.
“We’ve seen the popularity of hybrid destinations and how kind of fun it is. But obviously at the moment we want to focus on Cardiff, establishing Par 59 and getting the business correct in Cardiff. Then if everything goes well we would look to go nationally and internationally. We believe in what we are doing and the aim is to become as big as we can.”
It marks a second step into the hospitality sector for the footballer, following on from his partnership with Brains and the opening of Elevens Bar Grill in Cardiff in 2017. However, earlier this month Brains announced they are to sell off 40 pubs.
“We’ve heard about Brains and the difficulties they have, but we still have confidence in the company and we have a very good relationship with them,” says Bale.
“We are doing really well as a company with Brains, we have full confidence and want to continue to keep striving forward and keep doing the best we can for both parties.”
The name for the new venture comes from the fact that a sub-60 round is a massive achievement in golf – there have only been 10 in PGA Tour history.
“I haven’t quite got a Par 59, but I have broken 70,” says Bale.
“The best I shot is 67, which for an amateur is pretty good. To get to the magic number of 59 takes something special.”
And when asked which teammates he’d invite for the debut round on the new course he was quick to answer: Joe Ledley and Wayne Hennessey.
“When we go away with Wales we have a lot of fun and it’s always me, Joe Ledley and Wayne Hennessey. So for us three to take a round at Par 59, have a laugh and a beer, we would have a great craic and great laugh as we always do.”
The bar is expected to open in summer, but with coronavirus throwing the country into uncertainty, Bale and the team are keeping a close eye on the news coming out of Westminster.
“We are going to try and push ahead with our opening date,” he says.
“But no-one really knows exactly how Coronavirus is going to affect businesses, and everything is up in the air. We will work within the government guidelines and make sure we are doing everything we can to do everything properly. It is just a waiting game and we will go with what we need to and what the people in government say.”