Inception Group to use mannequins and gas masks as social distancing measures

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Playful solutions: ‘People will need spaces that spark a sense of escapism and imagination,’ says Inception Group’s Charlie Gilkes (right)
Playful solutions: ‘People will need spaces that spark a sense of escapism and imagination,’ says Inception Group’s Charlie Gilkes (right)

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The operator of 11 eclectic concept bars and restaurants, Inception Group, has revealed that it plans to use playful PPE (personal protective equipment) – such as beekeeping outfits – to take the sting out of Covid-19 social distancing measures.

As the UK moves ever closer towards the earmarked 4 July reopening date​ for pubs and bars, the London-based operator of venues, including Mr Fogg’s, Cahoots and Bunga Bunga, has unveiled a raft of social distancing measures to be woven into its sites’ look and feel. 

While the group states its top priority is adapting working practices and spaces to create safe environments for guests and customers alike – which will involve temperature checks for staff, the introduction of hand sanitiser dispensers and one-way systems for exit and entry – its founders intend to incorporate said measures into the overall experience at its venues.

To enforce safe social distancing measures at Mr Fogg’s Residence, for example, guests will make the acquaintance of an assortment of characters, in mannequin-form, from Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days​, which inspired the group’s collection of Mr Fogg’s venues.


What’s more, at Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals, staff and guests could be asked to wear beekeeping suits or an eye-catching protective veil as an additional safety precaution at the Fitzrovia-based bar – which is adorned with exotic flora and fauna.

On top of this, Inception Group has revealed plans to repurpose World War II gas masks as a face covering solution at 1940s-themed drinking den Cahoots in Soho, while encouraging visitors to roaring ’20s Prohibition-themed speakeasy Barts to don theatrical coverings from a fancy-dress box.

Don’t want venues to sacrifice personality 

Charlie Gilkes, who co-founded Inception Group with Duncan Sterling previously told The Morning Advertiser ​(MA​) ​that attention to detail​ was a key pillar in the success of their 11 sites across the capital, and that he was a key believer in the idea that each concept was 1% idea and 99% execution.

“The top priority for planning our reopening is adapting our ways of working and spaces to the new Covid-secure standards in order to ensure we create safe socialising and working environments in all of our venues,” Gilkes said of the group’s distancing plans.


“But, crucially for us, this must be done without forgetting, or compromising, what originally drew people into our establishments, and helped us build a loyal following. We do not want to welcome visitors back into spaces that feel sterile, devoid of personality and atmosphere because of the new measures.

“Now, more than ever before, people will need spaces that spark a sense of escapism and imagination, and we are determined to adapt what we were doing successfully before to the new ways of operating, while staying true to what we do best: creating unique and memorable experiences.

“There is no escaping the fact that the new restrictions are going to pose significant challenges to the way hospitality businesses operate but we are trying our very best with what we can do. 

“Should these playful solutions come to fruition, we will ensure they adhere to official guidelines. We are continuing to monitor the latest Government guidance fastidiously, which will determine our eventual decisions on the most appropriate hygiene and safety measures for our reopening.”


Inception Group’s approach to enforcing social distancing closely reflects the stance taken by Liberation Group, whose managing director of pubs and inns Jayson Perfect told MA​ that any social distancing measures would need to enhance the way businesses look and feel.

“I don’t just want to put big Perspex screens up everywhere to make people feel like they’re sitting in goldfish bowls,” he explained.

Read the latest digital edition of The Morning Advertiser​ – for free – by clicking here​.

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