Nick Jones on pedestrianising Soho and the future of Soho House

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nick Jones on re-opening Soho House

Related tags: Nick jones, Soho house, Soho, Coronavirus, Cafe Boheme, Dean Street Townhouse

Soho House founder Nick Jones is one of a number of high-profile operators to back the Soho Summer Street Festival campaign, which is hoping to temporarily pedestrianise the area to allow hospitality businesses to set-up al fresco drinking and dining areas.

How’s the campaign going?
We’re not quite there yet but things are looking positive. John James (managing director of Soho Estates) is doing a brilliant job leading it. I'm super supportive of it. Many venues in Soho are very small and will struggle if they can’t make use of outdoor space. We need a celebration. Soho needs as many people coming into it as possible to survive. This is a good way of achieving that in a safe way.

If the campaign is successful, what will it mean for Soho House’s numerous venues in the area?
The clubs have outdoor space upstairs but it would be extremely useful for some of our other places including Cafe Boheme, Cecconi's Pizza Bar and Dean Street Townhouse. It will give us a chance to run these businesses at more or less normal capacity. I've always been big on eating and drinking outside. We should be adopting a much more continental approach - let's just hope we have decent weather this summer.

What do you think about the Government confirming 4 July as the re-opening date for hospitality and the new guidelines that come with that?
Broadly speaking I’m happy. If you’d have told me a month ago that we’d be open in early July with one metre distancing I’d have definitely taken that. It's the right thing to do. We've got to take care of the public but we also need to protect as many jobs as possible. And I don't just mean Soho House, I'm talking about the whole of the hospitality industry. People now understand the data and they understand the virus. The consequences of us not getting hospitality and many other types of businesses going again could have far greater ramifications.

You run venues in a number of countries that are much further down the line in terms of coming out of lockdown - any insights from that?
It's all about confidence. It's a bit like jumping in a swimming pool, once they're in they're in. Hong Kong was the first House that we re-opened. We found people were very respectful of the rules and there hasn't been a second spike. It's pretty much back to normal at that venue now eight weeks after re-opening. More encouraging still is Little Beach House Malibu. ​We opened a week ago are now not far off being back where we were last year in terms of like-for-likes.

What are your re-opening plans for Soho House’s UK business?
We'll get the big sites open on 4 July including Shoreditch, Greek Street, White City, Babington House and Soho Farm House. The other sites will follow over the next few weeks. Our members have been brilliant to us, they have been incredibly loyal. The response we have been getting from our members is that they can't wait to get back. That’s given us the confidence to continue to expand, we’re looking to open more Houses and more Soho Works Works (Soho House’s workspace offer).

Soho House is quite reliant on people travelling for work and going to the office - how much do you think this crisis will change the way your members work?
I do think there will be a slight change. People have enjoyed working from home and they have found it to be quite productive. But there needs to be a balance, and companies know that. Our business is extremely flexible, especially as we now have Soho Work. Whatever approach people and businesses take I believe Soho House can fit their needs.

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