Creating a London vibe and a holiday feel at Stratford's new pub
A REFURBISHED pub opened on Monday (21st June) offering customers the chance to soak up a holiday atmosphere for an hour or two on its new terrace.
The Phoenix on Guild Street, Stratford, is the latest project for Sue and Rachel Hawkins.
They’ve been in the hospitality trade around the area for a few decades now and have specialised in bringing pubs back to life – the Phoenix is their 10th project, the fifth within Stratford.
This latest project has seen them take a closed pub and give it ‘London vibe’, Sue told the Herald. “I’m hoping it’s the best one yet,” she said. “We’ve pulled together all of our expertise from over the years and this is the big one.
“We’re hoping to offer a little slice of London. It’s a very sophisticated refurb, full of plush velvet sofas, a laidback London vibe and an incredible rose terrace which we really believe is going to be our USP.”
The terrace, said Sue, is where the holiday atmosphere is designed to take effect, with wafting palm trees, chilled music, a pink neon sign and a living wall.
Sue added: “It’s like going on holiday for an hour when you get to the terrace.”
Covid may have left people in need of a holiday, but opening a pub during a pandemic may not be the easiest of tasks, even for the initiated.
“We’ve never taken the easy route,” said Sue. “We’ve always bought pubs that have either a terrible reputation or are closed or, in the case of Church Street Townhouse, we bought a dental practice and turned it into a hotel.
“We have faith in the product and in our people. We always believe that whatever we open – and whenever we open – that we’ll hit the right note and create the market.”
That market in this case is us locals – a neighbourhood bar with a causal food offering, such as pizzas and tapas.
“We always aim to keep the locals happy,” explained Sue. “If we get some tourists then that’s the icing on the cake, but we know that the locals are loyal, demand high standards and will be with us year-round.”
However, Sue admitted that the typical local customer has changed since the early projects, which include No 6 Union Street and Bar Hum Bug.
“I think people are more exacting now. There’s a lot more emphasis on local sourcing, small artisan producers, customer service, varied diets and restrictions – it’s a much more professional than it used to be, more honed.
“People understand food and drink a lot better and demand a higher standard.”
Covid – with a side helping of Brexit – has made its impact felt.
Monday was meant to be a grand opening for the Phoenix, a big bang. But that was not meant to be and now the pub will be looking to break even until ‘freedom’ day comes around, possibly on 19th July.
The other area where the impact has been felt is staffing.
“I have never known a staff shortage such as this,” Sue said. “It’s industry wide and national. Everything you read in our industry press is saying the shortage of staff at the moment is unprecedented and worrying.
“I’ve read of places which are having to pare down the food offering or start closing certain days of the week or in the afternoon.”
With many hospitality staff still on furlough and facing uncertain futures, they’re just not moving jobs.
The new roadmap date announced by the prime minister may well get the jobs market active again but on a positive note, Sue adds, the delay gives the Phoenix a chance to fine tune everything.