Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of the 11-site strong operation, told The Morning Advertiser it would take “months if not years” for footfall to return to pre-pandemic levels.
He said recovery would be longer for big cities as tourism would take a while to return and offices could be slow to reach full occupancy. “It's not gonna be an overnight big bang for us,” he added.
“These are things that are going to take months if not years to get back to where they were,” Gilkes said.
The bar operator will reopen its 1980s themed nightclub Maggie’s for the first time since March 2020 on 19 July, when Covid restrictions will be scrapped.
Ministers have confirmed vaccine passports will not be required domestically, meaning nightclub operators can invite revellers to an experience close to pre-pandemic clubbing.
“People are incredibly excited to be coming back,” Gilkes said. “We have given the venue a refurbishment so that it feels more fresh and clean.
“People have really missed dancing and letting go so I hope it will be as close to normal as possible. It will be a great moment to see people standing at the bar and on a dance floor once again.”
However, some Covid safety measures will remain across the operator’s venues beyond 19 July.
Enhanced hygiene will continue and staff will be allowed to wear face coverings if they choose.
“We won't quite go back to our old table plans overnight, it will be a transition period that we will review on a weekly basis,” the co-founder said.
Gilkes said the business was “certainly open to new sites in time” but for the time being the focus would be on reopening its estate and returning it to “full potential.”
The operator described self-isolating staff as “concern number one” for the business and said the issue was amounting to a “very difficult summer.”
Individuals who have been double-jabbed will not have to self isolate if identified as a close contact of someone infectious from 16 August.
However, many staff members working for Inception Group’s sites are young and may not receive two doses until September.
“It's all very well being able to open at full capacity but it's going to be practically difficult to service that without enough staff,” Gilkes added.
He added: “Our hope is tourism will start to recover and people will return to their offices and the inner city areas will come alive.
“There's lots of challenges, recruitment is a big issue across the sector and it has been compounded by [NHS Test and Trace] taking scores of staff out of action for ten days at a time, which makes operating very, very difficult.”
“[Lifting lockdown laws] is a big step in the right direction, we're excited to trade at full capacity again. We're positive about the future but that [isolating staff] is a major issue that needs to be sorted out.”
The tapering off of Government support was also a “huge issue” for the business, particularly for Maggie’s which has had no income for sixteen months and now must pay business rates once more.