‘Our job is to put the party back into people’s lives’

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Consumer confidence: 'We need the media and Government to demonstrate it’s okay to come out,' says Stonegate Group operations director for its late-night division, Sarah Miller (image: Getty/LUMIKK555)
Consumer confidence: 'We need the media and Government to demonstrate it’s okay to come out,' says Stonegate Group operations director for its late-night division, Sarah Miller (image: Getty/LUMIKK555)

Related tags: Stonegate, Nightclub

Stonegate Group’s operations director for its late-night division has said venues still have a responsibility to reduce the spread of Covid, as the sector is finally freed of legal restrictions.

Some 52 of Stonegate’s venues were able to finally reopen when England moved into step four of the Government’s unlocking roadmap this week (Monday 19 July), after closure under lockdown laws.

Sarah Miller told The Morning Advertiser​ that venues had a “responsibility to minimise the spread.”

“In terms of comparison to March 2020, it will be the same physical experience but very much with an awareness to the fact the virus is still there,” she explained.

“Our job now is to put the party back into people's lives and fill a gap in their social lives that has been missing and affected people in a different way.

“The most exciting bit is to get people back on dancefloors, having the times of their lives again.”

Research by the pub company found 78% of people said they missed being able to sing and dance the most. “You only get that in a nightclub,” Miller said.

While venues can advertise their Covid safety measures, it would be up to other institutions to rebuild consumer confidence to go out to crowded events again. 

“We need the media and Government to demonstrate it’s ok to come out in the same way the media and Government demonstrated it wasn’t okay when Covid was a bigger problem.”

“We still take having Covid out there seriously,” Miller added.

Stonegate’s venues will continue to maintain high levels of hygiene and frequent sanitisation with no expectation of masks or vaccine passports across its late night brands including Popworld and Walkabout. 

Nightclubs will be forced to require customers to show proof of full vaccination by the end of September, a proposal that a spokesperson for Stonegate Group dubbed “hugely disappointing​".

Post-lockdown landscape

The company has called on the Government to urgently issue details of how a scheme would work amid rumours it is a bluff to encourage young people to get jabbed against the virus.

As well as changing regulations, venues are also set to be confronted with the impact of customers’ post-lockdown lifestyles.

Stonegate has no option but to “stay ahead of the game” when it came to changing consumer lifestyles, with many city workers continuing to work from home, Miller explained.

“We do need people to come back to work to be able to operate the businesses fully.”

“Potentially you move from a Friday/Saturday business to a Thursday/Saturday business”, she said.

Many remote workers are planning to return to the office in the middle of the week while working from home on Mondays and Fridays. “We have to react to that.”

Engaged customers

What’s more, many people learnt to make cocktails themselves during lockdown meaning customers are looking for premium products when dining and drinking out, Miller explained.

“Everyone expanded their views on food and drink. We have to make sure it is a quality product and quality serve. People have been doing it themselves, ordering cocktail or food kits. We’re very aware of that.”

The director echoed the words of other late-night sector bosses in describing door staff shortages​ and self-isolation rules as two of the "biggest challenges" for the business.

Self-isolating staff was an "unknown that we can't plan for," Miller added, reiterating calls for a testing scheme to replace the full self-isolation period. 

Related topics: Ei Group

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