On a typical pandemic evening, many Bajan restaurants within the famous St. Lawrence Gap of Barbados can be found operating at low attendance rates. Still, if one hails a cab and ventures a few blocks down Hastings Main Road, you’ll find a restaurant that’s defying the odds: Influence Bar & Grill.

A chill scene filled with mostly millennial customers vibing to Soca, R&B, and everything in between. Guests will also witness patrons chowing down on tasty eats that offer a spin on Bajan cuisine.

The mastermind behind this experience is Jordan English, a 24-year-old influencer who grew his IG community from 4k to 64k during the pandemic lockdown and then used his newfound audience to launch this hot spot.

Courtesy of Jordan English

“It was always a dream of mine to get a venue because I was always renting someone else’s location for my events,” English told Travel Noire. “After my numbers rose, my friend offered me his father’s bar and was like, ‘Everybody wanna be around you right now. You should take this over’. I’ve always been interested in selling experiences and fun, so I was like ‘Yea. Leh we do that immediately.'” 

To take it back to the beginning of his story, English started out as a videographer who was encouraged to get in front of the camera and build his personal brand with a video series.

“My right-hand video man was like ‘Bro, you’re so funny and have the personality for it.’ I didn’t take it seriously, but my first video got 5,000 views in 24 hours and I gained 2,000 followers. I was like, ‘Yoo! People are actually commenting and creating memes because of this footage!'”

The short-lived series ended in less than a year, thanks to the lockdown. Still, after hopping on a fellow Bajan’s IG Live and observing its high view count, English continued scheduling more lives and eventually accepted a viewer’s challenge to replicate the record-breaking numbers that Tory Lanez’s “Quarantine Radio” achieved on Instagram.

In a short span of time, English moved from 200 views to 18,000 views.

Courtesy of Influence Bar and Grill

“There were viral moments, memes and gifs circulating from each IG Live every time some madness happened!” By the end of his first season, even the queen of Barbados — Rihanna — was following English.

“We used my Instagram account to raise $45k for a food drive. It helped those struggling during the pandemic. Right after that is when one of my guys suggested that I take over his dad’s bar.” 

In two days, English’s bar was filled to capacity and in three days it was shut down.

“I kind of opened this bar illegally, with no licenses and no permissions, so the landlord put me out.”

English legally relaunched one year later, on July 7 of 2021. Once again, his business was a hit! When asked about the restaurant’s success and how it differs from other locations around Barbados, English had this to share:

“COVID basically showed us that the most important people in our economy are the locals. So I opened the place with locals in mind and to bring an experience to the locals. Then whatever tourists I get, is a plus. Most of the places that have closed or slowed down are focused on tourists only. They make the prices high, create strict dress codes, and market only to tourists. My environment is organic and is a great balance of different classes. White people feel comfortable here as well. The staff is energetic and vibey. There’s no strict dress code. I hang out with and kick it with everyone.” 

Courtesy of Influence Bar and Grill

English uses both his and the restaurant’s Instagram accounts to share daily IG stories, providing followers with a clear understanding of what to expect when they enter the venue.

“I want you to walk in and see a variety of things happening. Some people eating in a family setting. Others vibing with the guys or girls and blowing hookah. Some dancing. Others having a business meeting or something. There’s a painted wall celebrating all Bajans who have influenced the island. There’s also images of international and influential Black people in the bar. I want it to be a place that represents culture and the Black community. When tourists visit, I want them to feel that too.”

According to his patrons, crowd favorites include the BBQ and Sweet Chili Wings, Racka Ribs (Bajan style BBQ), and the Surf and Turf Burger (homemade Bajan burger topped with creamy alfredo shrimp). 

It’s been two months, and English’s restaurant is still seeing tremendous success. As for English’s future, this is just a tiny piece of the puzzle. He plans to ultimately open an Influence Bar and Grill in Miami and London.

In addition to that, he has some other boss moves that shall be revealed in due time.

Courtesy of Influence Bar and Grill

When reflecting on his 2020/2021, English has a lot to be proud of

“My biggest achievement for 2020 was knowing that I created a platform with the power to change a whole family’s living situation here in Barbados, in a matter of 24 hours,” English said, referring to a philanthropic effort that helped improve deplorable living conditions for a St. Phillips family of 5. “For 2021, the highlight was opening Influence Bar, and a personal highlight is that I had a daughter in April.”

To learn more about Influence Bar and Grill, follow them on Instagram at @InfluenceBim. You can also follow Jordan English on Instagram at @jordanenglishhh.

Influence Bar and Grill is located on Hastings Main Road in Barbados. They are open Monday – Thursday 5pm – 10pm and Friday – Sunday 11am – 10pm. Hours may change once the island’s curfew is lifted.