We Catch Up With Katie Elnor and Curtis Salmon, Owners of the Berliner in Beeston

Photos: Sophie Gargett
Interview: Julia Head
Monday 18 December 2023
reading time: min, words

If you're a local 'Beestonian' you've probably spotted The Berliner on your daily tram travels. Taking inspiration from Nottingham's independent bar scene and the unapologetic uber-cool spirit of Berlin, it has firmly placed Beeston on the map, whether you’re looking for after-work drinks, two-for-one cocktails, or live music. Our Food Editor, Julia Head caught up with Katie Elnor and Curtis Salmon, two young twenty-somethings who have known one another since childhood, to chat about how fate brought them to taking a job at The Berliner and eventually owning it together… 

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You’ve both been running the bar for six months now. You’re something of a two-person tour de force, so tell us, how did you meet and how would you describe your friendship?
Katie: We’re both from Beeston Rylands and have known one another since nursery school, we’re both 26 years old and only one month apart. We became the best of friends on the school playground when we were seven years old; we were just two kids playing games by the fence who bonded over our mutual weirdness of making up choreographed dances. 

We’ve also lived most of our lives together, and our relationship is really open and honest. I trust Curtis with all of my being, and I don’t ever second-guess myself around him. We finish each other’s sentences, and he doesn’t even need to say anything. I can see when he is working on something and needs help and I’ll just pick it up and finish it off. We are quite symbiotic, like Siamese twins. We’re completely transparent; we share the good and the bad, whatever we are thinking it’s shared so that we’re on the same page. A lot of people think we’re a couple because there’s no barrier or boundary between us. We’d say SpongeBob and Patrick perfectly sums up our dynamic.

The love between you both is enviable, not many people can say the same about one of their colleagues. How would you describe The Berliner, what sort of bar is it… what makes it unique?
Curtis: We’re quite an alternative bar and I think most people think that only a certain type of young or trendy person would visit us, when really, we attract anyone and everyone from all walks of life and they all mingle so well. For example, my grandparents had this notion that they couldn’t come to The Berliner, and I was like, yes you can! It makes us happiest when we’ve left a good enough impression that people want to come back. Everyone is welcome. It’s another thing we love about Beeston, because in the city centre you can kind of get that separation of different tribes, but in our community here everyone feels like they belong.

We’re also fascinated by your 'origin story' - How did two up-and-comers in their twenties end up owning one of the coolest bars in town?
Katie: It’s been a bit of an evolution to get here since the bar opened in 2016, I think. We both worked with the previous owner, James, who encouraged a culture where if we had any creative ideas about the bar, we could run with it. It’s always been a place for growth and when it was time for James to move on, he had naturally seen how well Curtis and I worked together so we were given the unbelievable offer to take over the bar. Everyone in this industry works, really, really hard but they don’t always pass the barrier of being able to own their own place. We just worked hard in the right place and got rewarded greatly for it. It felt very much like the passing of the torch, and as James came to the end of his journey at The Berliner, he saw that we could be at the start of ours.

Curtis: To James’ credit, he nurtures the best out of people, and that’s a legacy we inherited from the very beginning that we want to continue with everyone working here, even our friendship with James goes back to school days. I was blown away by the faith that he had in us, and this opportunity is incredibly rare and it’s very empowering. In four years, we’ve seen a lot of versions of this place, and it amazes us that it keeps evolving.

People think that only a certain type of young or trendy person would visit us, when really, we attract anyone and everyone. For example, my grandparents had this notion that they couldn’t come to The Berliner, and I was like, yes you can!

Your food and your beer have proved to be massive hits with the locals. Where do you take your inspiration from? We’re particularly huge fans of the Berlin style potatoes…
Katie: I’ve worked in kitchens before, and I love food, especially comfort food. I do a lot of online research and look at traditional German style dishes. We twisted our version of German fried potatoes to make it more commercial with added toppings and cheese, and we have vegan options too. We’ve refreshed the menu a few times, and we all test it together. In terms of the food collaborations that we do, we don’t often get to visit street food markets on the weekends, so we brought it to the bar in a different dynamic, where you can drink nice cocktails and have plenty of seating and be comfortable. We also think that everybody should have the opportunity to showcase their great food alongside ours.

Curtis: With our beers, we walk the line between what we know our customers want and what we can have a play with, so it’s a case of having your classics and then making sure we have a German range that you don’t see everywhere. Our more interesting beers can’t be found in a Wetherspoons, for instance.

We feel like The Berliner is at the heartbeat of the Beeston community. What is most important to you about these two things? 
Katie: We love the diversity of Beeston and love that there are so many people from all over the world with different life experiences that are moving here and staying here, to the place that we were born and that we grew up in. James created a culture that allowed us all to have a creative output, which is not very common in hospitality, so we want to pass that creative freedom down to everyone else who works here so that they can grow too. We’re passionate about keeping that culture for everyone else. We’re a team and we’re all for one, and one for all, as they would say in High School Musical.

The Berliner offers a rotating weekly events calendar of free live entertainment, pub quizzes, and bottomless brunches. The best way to stay up to date is through their Instagram @theberlinerbar

6 High Rd, Chilwell, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 4AE

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