In 1981, Hayes Wines had an outlet on Conduit Street, Leicester, and formed the Hayes Wine Society which met at various locations, including Conduit Street. In 1985, the company moved to new premises in Friday Street next to the Grand Union Canal (a navigable part of the River Soar through Leicester) and close to Abbey Park.
At this time, Chris Thorne appeared on the scene, joining Hayes Wines. In early 1986 the club, still controlled by Hayes, took on the new name of ‘The Grand Union Wine Society’. Chris remained heavily involved in the running of the club and when, towards the end of 1987, Hayes Wines left Leicester, Chris kept the tastings going and the Grand Union Wine Society took its present form.