LIVING the dream” is an over-used phrase but there must be many music lovers for whom running a record shop would be just that.

Combine that record shop with a bar selling cask beer and serving charcuterie and cheeses and the dream is surely elevated to fantasy level!

It wasn’t exactly what Keith Wildman, owner of Bradford BID’s Trader of the Week, the Record Café, had in mind when he opened his business in North Parade in 2014. But he doesn’t seem to be complaining…

“The original idea was more of a vinyl record shop that sold bottles and cans,” he recalls. “However, with my passion for cask beer and pubs, and love of food, it evolved.

“Selling cask and keg alongside bottles and cans made it far more of a bar than I ever intended, but you’ve just got to go with where an idea takes you. It’s part of the journey and learning curve.

“Cheese and charcuterie made sense from a practice point of view, and it’s the perfect food to graze whilst having a few beers.

“I’ve learnt a lot over the six years we’ve been open, and I tweak things almost on a daily basis. You learn something new every day, so I’m always looking to improve but right now it feels the best it's been.”

The business sells new vinyl records and reissues, as well as a curated section of cask, keg, bottled and canned beers from their favourite local, national and worldwide breweries, and they specialise in Spanish charcuterie and cheeses.

“That said, I’d like to think it’s all special,” says Keith. “My job really is a curator - naff as that sounds! Whether it’s the records, food or drink, it’s my job to select what I think are the best for our customers.

“With the beer, that’s not an easy job. There are so many breweries out there now that picking the best, most interesting, and often harder-to-come-by beers is quite the challenge. But that’s the best bit of the job. The records are tailored to what people are buying alongside what I know about - I’d describe it as very ‘6music’.”

The walls and ceiling of the Record Café are a testament to just how many different beers Keith and his two staff – Rose Hubbard and Allan Gill – have served up over the last six years. Lining the beams there are hundreds upon hundreds of the branded cards which adorn the bar’s pump handles when a beer is “on.”

“Each one of them is a piece of artwork in its own right,” says Keith. “So as well as a reminder of just how many different beers and breweries we’ve featured, they are fascinating to look at and a tribute to their creative designers.”

In common with bars across the city, the Covid regulations have brought their own set of challenges: “A lot, like the cleaning, is just an extension of what we’ve always done, says Keith.

“Being a licensed premises you have a certain set of rules to follow anyway, so we’ve not found that side of things too difficult. We now greet you at the door, give you menus and show you to a table. We’ve switched to card only and table service. I actually quite enjoy doing that.

“The downside is the social distancing. It’s possible for us to be at capacity now with just a dozen people, and that’s the same for a lot of smaller premises.”

So far, though, their response to the restrictions has been working well.

“We’ve kept the atmosphere the same and tried to make the changes as seamless as possible,” he says. “Rather than putting people off, we’ve found that people are going out of their way to come here because they know we’re doing everything properly and they feel safe.”

“It’s so good to see our regular customers again and just get back to work and putting the tedium and worry of lockdown behind us. Obviously, from a financial point of view it’s been crucial, but it was equally crucial to wait for it to be safe to reopen.”

Keith is a big believer in high streets needing a good mix of businesses but he insists it’s the local independents that give a place its character.

“I think local businesses bring a point of difference to the community they’re in, whatever the business,” he says. “There’s a place for the big chains – we all use and benefit from those – but without small, local businesses, every high street, village and city centre would be exactly the same.

“One of the things that make this country so great is the individual identity of its towns, villages and counties. The only way these businesses can survive is for people to use them.”

Sometimes, however, attracting customers can provide an unexpected test: “Hosting Record Store Day (an annual worldwide event for independent record shops) on a Bradford City home match Saturday one year was quite the experience,” he recalls.

“Such a busy day with home and away football fans mixing with vinyl enthusiasts from far afield, alongside DJs and an Edward Street Bakery Pop up. Probably the busiest day we’ve ever had!”

And he’s certainly not afraid to think outside the box when it comes to new ideas…

“We’ve somehow ended up running yearly vintage open top bus trips to places that no longer exist in Bradford - sports grounds, tramways, railways,” he says. “It’s become the highlight of the year.

“I’ll be able to look back on with pride in years to come that I sold out a vintage bus trip to Esholt Sewage works!”

* The Record Café, 45-47 North Parade, Bradford. Tel: (01274) 723143; E-mail:; Website:; Facebook @therecordcafe; Twitter @therecordcafe; Instagram @therecordcafe