Leeds bars: Meet the couple behind The Assembly changing the drinking scene in Cross Gates
Now a household name in Cross Gates, the couple behind The Assembly set out to change the drinking scene in the east Leeds suburb.
Stephanie and Matthew Cliffe opened their bar, bottle shop and café in a tiny unit in Station Road in 2018.
They spotted a gap in the market, catering for people willing to spend a little more on quality ales, artisan gin and cocktails.
But it was a risk, Stephanie admits, and they didn't know if it would pay off.
“We wanted to build a bar in Cross Gates that we would drink in, that our friends would drink in," Stephanie, 36, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"But we were questioning whether we were doing the right thing - are we crazy? What do we know, we’re not business people?
"There was self-doubt and the challenge was building the confidence to take the plunge. We put everything into it, financially and mentally."
Matthew, 43, was born and bred in Cross Gates and Stephanie has lived in the area for 15 years.
They've been astounded by the support of the community and have built up a base of loyal customers, from students and young professionals to older people.
"It was such a relief that it was received so well, the risk was definitely worth taking," Stephanie added.
"It’s not all down to us, but there is more confidence in the area since we opened and it’s had a domino effect."
That support which would prove invaluable when the coronavirus pandemic hit last year.
"We’ve positively optimistic now, but it was devastating," Stephanie admits.
"We put our livelihoods into the business and then all of a sudden we were forced to close.
“But the pandemic has meant everyone has come together in Cross Gates, we all want to champion each other as businesses to raise the profile of east Leeds. And it’s definitely working.”
Bringing people together is the ethos of The Assembly and the name was born from a drunken chat with friends in Ibiza, when the idea to open a bar was in its infancy.
Stephanie said: "The dictionary meaning of ‘assembly’ is the gathering of people in one place with a common purpose.
"That is the undertone of everything we do, catering for people of the same mindset wanting quality drinks in a home-from-home environment."
The Assembly's expansion into Garforth has been put on hold by lockdowns, with the couple's new bar now set to open after May 17.
It's back to business in Cross Gates where the outdoor seating area has reopened for walk-ins offering craft beers, artisan gin and a 'summer spritz' cocktail selection.
"There’s definitely a buzz and we’re super excited that we’re back to some degree of normality," Stephanie added.
“Independent business owners have been really hard hit and we need you now more than ever."
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.