The Pandemic Pushed Me To: Open a bar in lockdown
The Pandemic Pushed Me To…. Our limited series exploring tales of optimism and positivity, celebrates those who have persevered and overcome throughout the pandemic. With bars around the world readying themselves for a semblance of normality, we spoke to two brothers who have held their ground throughout.
The Schofield brothers are hospitality personified – genuinely warm, always welcoming, and will do their upmost to ensure you have a night to remember.
With a collective twenty-seven years in the bar industry, Daniel and Joe have been talking about opening a bar together for the past decade. But they earned their stripes first. With numerous personal accolades and stints at some of the world’s best bars, they’ve been learning, studying and doing their due diligence. Now, they’re ready.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this might possibly be the worst time in recent history to open a bar, but the Schofield brothers have capitalised on the trend for take-away drinks and dishes, the good fortune of having a good-sized terrace and the excitement of being able to drink indoors again.
Already their bookable tables are reserved for the foreseeable future, and the brothers are set to hit the ground running. But it hasn’t been an easy ride. ‘To say it was an easy path wouldn’t necessarily be true. We’ve had a lot of challenges, perhaps the most obvious being the current climate. It’s been very challenging for the whole hospitality industry and it’s certainly not the right or opportune time to open a bar, but this is the hand we’ve been dealt, and we’re determined to make a success of it and keep facing this challenge with optimism,’ explains Joe.
The upcoming opening is the third step of a four-part plan, following the launch of SCHOFIELD’S BAR PROVISIONS and the Terrace. Over the past six weeks, the brothers have been serving the local community and building a customer base. It’s worked. ‘If we just get one or two people coming through for tea or coffee, yeah, we don’t make any money, but we invest our time in to meeting them, showing them around the venue, telling them who we are and what we’re trying to do here and it has proven itself in the past two weeks. All these people we’ve met coming through for a coffee have been on the Terrace, so it was an investment of our time, getting regular guests, which has been amazing,’ says Daniel.
The space itself will be paramount to the bar’s success. SCHOFIELD’S BAR inhibits Sunlight House, one of the most iconic buildings in the North of England. The art deco masterpiece of Architect Joseph Sunlight was the tallest building in Manchester upon completion in the 1930s, a decade of great importance to cocktail culture, and so it makes sense that the brothers are championing classic cocktails in a classic building.
‘We viewed the site about a year before Covid-19 and fell in love with it. We got goosebumps every time we walked through the doors. Our hair at would stand on end because we knew this was the right one. It's the perfect site for us, perfect for what we want to achieve, what our aspirations are,’ says Joe. With its iconic green entrance, a large feature bar and ornate interior stone masonry, it’s no wonder the locals are excited to be visiting when lockdown is relaxed.
Despite coming from a bartending background, the brothers are focusing on the guests as much as the cocktails. ‘It’s always been about hospitality first, that’s been the main focus for us. We understand that people are coming for the drinks but what we’re really trying to champion here is hospitality and guest experience,’ says Daniel. As for the menu, Joe explains, ‘We always wanted to have a bar that champions classic cocktails, but we also want to keep things a bit exciting for our guests. The menu will change every three months with the seasons and we’ll have twelve classic cocktails on there that’ll never change, which will perhaps become our signatures. We’ve not really got along with this concept, that if somebody wants to go for a cocktail they’ll go to a cocktail bar, if people want a glass of wine, they’ll go to a wine bar, if they want a draught beer, they’ll go to a pub. Why can’t one venue really try and serve excellent versions of those things in one place?’
Despite all the challenges that come with opening a bar during a pandemic, the brother’s positivity has made it possible. ‘We spent ten years talking about opening this bar and the last thing we imagined opening was a take-away coffee shop. But it’s just the mind-set that we had. It was always positive; it was always optimistic. It was “yeah we can do that, yeah we need to do this.’’ There was no way we were going to sit at home when the bar was ready to go,’ says Daniel.
Asked what advice they’d share with anyone in their position, Joe says, ‘Just make sure that you are going into it with a positive attitude and a strong mind-set because it is just a case of putting out fires and if you don’t have that sort of mentality and that attitude towards it, I think it would be quite overwhelming. Thankfully, the fires have gotten less and less every day. We’ve managed to bring a great team on-board and we’re really excited and really happy. This is a terrible time to open a bar, probably the world’s worst time to open a bar, but we’re ready to go and still excited to be on this journey.’
For more tips and tricks, watch the full video interview. Daniel and Joe – we’ll see you at the bar.