The past two month's have been a huge challenge for businesses large and small in all sectors of the economy. Front-line hospitality businesses – restaurants, bars, hotels, cafés – and many others across the supply chain from small farmers and independent producers through to wholesale and professional service providers, have all had to contend with an almost total closure.
After the initial shock, many businesses have found a way to adapt to a certain extent, whether by creating or growing their collection and delivery options, or simply continuing to engage with existing and potential customers through regular social media engagement.
Many hospitality businesses have also benefited from the lifeline grant funding provided by the Netherlands government, without which many small independents simply wouldn't have survived this period.
The industry is not out-of-the-woods yet though; social distancing measures – whilst essential to keep customers and staff safe – will inevitably reduce the profitability of a venue's space whilst not necessarily reducing the overhead. With many people now experiencing lower incomes, will consumers have the money to dine and drink out; and – just as importantly – will they have the confidence to return to the way things were before? There will certainly be a considerable reduction in tourists and the leisure spend they bring; and for The Hague in particular a drop in high-spend business and conferencing visitors will be felt for a long time to come.
With regards specifically to the bar industry, many will find the coming weeks and months particularly challenging. Some who are primarily late night venues simply do not have substantial – or any – outdoor terrace seating. For customers wishing to food and drink inside a venue, it will be essential to make a reservation in advance, and numbers inside are currently limited to 30 guests who must all be socially distanced at 1.5m (as they must from staff, and staff from their colleagues).
In more positive news, the Dutch government has already announced that subject to the Coved-19 'R' number (transmission rate) continuing to fall, and that both citizens and businesses continue to follow official advice then the reduction of the country's intelligent lockdown will continue, with a view to potentially allowing venues to open up to 100 guests in their internal spaces from 1 July.
The independent hospitality scene of The Hague is resilient and determined. The last few weeks have shown that there is a greater sense of camaraderie and common-purpose than perhaps was evident in the past. There is a will to get the sector back on its feet, and return life to the city this summer.
At The Hague Cocktail Week, we are already planning with our partners a somewhat revised model for our 'Reloaded' event later this year. Whilst we won't be announcing actual dates yet, until we are confident that the event can be delivered following government guidance and safely for all involved, our aim is to have the event 'oven-ready' so we are ready to hit the 'Go' button at a moments notice.
Partnership working supported by collective marketing and PR activity, such as that delivered by The Hague Cocktail Week across the year, will be imperative in order to put The Hague's quality bar scene and wider hospitality sector back on the map for locals and visitors.
Over the coming months, we are supporting our partner venues through this website, our social media channels and The Hague Cocktail Times, and in doing so providing our cocktail-loving readers with information and editorial on all-things cocktail related in the city.
In the meantime, we hope you can enjoy some great Haagse hospitality over the coming weeks.