Late-night operators ‘desperate for clarity on reopening’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Closed venues: Deltic's Peter Marks (left) and Inception Group's Charlie Gilkes (right) both have sites they are unable to reopen yet
Closed venues: Deltic's Peter Marks (left) and Inception Group's Charlie Gilkes (right) both have sites they are unable to reopen yet

Related tags MA500 Late night Nightclub Legislation

Two wet-led late-night businesses have voiced their concerns about not having any Government guidance on when or how they can reopen.

Inception Group co-founder Charlie Gilkes and Deltic Group chief executive Peter Marks spoke with The Morning Advertiser's​ editor Ed Bedington about their worries at the one-off special digital MA500 conference this week (Thursday 16 July).

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Marks said: “We have 53 nightclubs and they are nightclubs largely. We have got very little we can open in the day, we have managed to open the Terrace in Exeter which is a rooftop terrace with a nightclub closed underneath it.

“We have got Eden in Portsmouth, with three quarters of the floor space we rent closed but we have got a wonderful balcony and restaurant that opens very successfully overlooking the sea.

“We have got a small bar in Bristol called Steinbeck & Shaw, again only a little bit of the whole premises open.

“We always knew we were going to be last back and we are just waiting to hear when our time comes but it's very frustrating because we have heard nothing as yet.

“While others have had a few weeks’ notice to half prepare for 4 July, we sort of knew it was in the offing, we need a date, it's very frustrating.”

Planning ahead

Inception Group has managed to open a number of its sites and is using playful personal protective equipment​ (PPE) measures in place.

Gilkes said: “We have 11 sites and have been able to open four of them not in full but three of our Mr Foggs sites and our Cahoots Ticket Hall, which opened later last year.

“We are opening another one Mr Foggs Tavern then we are opening Barts, our cocktail bar next week, then the Society of Exploration, which is a basement Mr Foggs, will open in October.

“The three we can't open yet are Maggie's, which is a nightclub and our live entertainment brand Bunga Bunga, which is a pizzeria with live music. The guidance currently prohibits any live entertainment.

“We are desperate for clarity, something to plan towards, even if it was a date relatively far in the future it's much better than being in the dark and not knowing what to plan for.”

While further details are needed on when this part of the sector can reopen, Deltic’s Marks outlined how remaining closed for now has its benefits.

New normal

Marks added: “I was moaning about being last back but there are some advantages. People will get to understand the new normal.

“People will become more comfortable. There is a getting used to it that is going to be out there. People will understand they need to be sensible, there will be local lockdowns in they are silly and people will adopt a fairly decent strategy.

“I'm not blind to the fact we know there's going to be the odd person misbehave but we are used to dealing with that sort of thing.

“As long as we can try to get back in September and we can build confidence back up throughout the rest of July and August, less hype around any odd issue by the media, we can see confidence coming back, that's so important. People have been so focused on so many things but consumer confidence has almost been blindsided.”

Inception Group’s Gilkes also highlighted positives he has found amid the sites the business has reopened.

He said: “Something I have been encouraged to see is how much our customers have embraced all the measures.

“There's no eye rolling when we check their temperature, complaints about doing the Track and Trace, people have really been quite reassured and happy to comply. 

“It's unfortunate the pictures that made the papers after 'Super Saturday', it was such an isolated incident. Up and down the country publicans and bar operators and the public really embraced this new normal. It is encouraging to see.”

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