The South West food and drink industry has been severely hit by lockdown as restaurants have closed and producers have lost their customers. Yet some businesses are experiencing an unprecedented boom, while others are pivoting in new and creative directions.
We spoke to foodies on the frontline about what’s been going down
Patrick Fogarty is the master mixologist behind Doctor Ink’s Curiosities, Exeter’s award winning cocktail den. He also owns Bronx Bar & ‘Cue in Teignmouth and last year opened Halulu, his second venue in the seaside town.
How has lockdown affected your business?
We were slightly ahead of the curve in that we could see what was going to happen to the industry about a month before lockdown was enforced. We knew our bars were going to be closed for the long haul, so we decided to take our business online and launched a weekly virtual cocktail masterclass with ingredient boxes so viewers could mix along at home.
In essence, we closed three businesses and opened a new one. All of our staff have been furloughed and it’s just myself and my business partner running the Stir Crazy masterclasses.
We were lucky to already have a large following on social media who knew and trusted us. The sessions started small with 40 people taking part in the first one and it’s grown steadily each week – this Saturday we’ll have 460 people joining us (virtually). What’s great is that there’s a massive sense of community: lots of people are getting in the spirit by donning fancy dress each week and groups of friends are linking up on Zoom to do the masterclasses together.
Has the drink community been supportive?
The drinks brands have been great. Each week has a different theme (American whisky, shrubs, tequila etc) and the brands have been brilliant at providing mini bottles to go in the ingredients boxes – it’s a great way for them to reach new customers.
What will you continue to do when lockdown lifts?
We will definitely continue the Stir Crazy masterclasses as there are a lot of people who don’t want to go out on a Saturday night anyway.
As for the bars, we’ll keep watching to see how the situation evolves. We obviously have overhead costs at each venue which aren’t going to go away. We’re already looking at doing some sort of ready-to-drink cocktails to takeaway from Doctor Ink’s and enjoy on the quay in summer, and the same goes for Halulu which has a spacious garden and cocktail shack (we’re even looking into Calippo-style frozen cocktails).