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What we learned from the return of the late-night

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On what some have dubbed ‘Freedom Day’, we saw the last lockdown restrictions lifted in England, allowing late-night venues to finally make their big comeback. Despite uncertainty around when this exact date would be, industry leaders hailed the news that some 2,000 more venues could, at last, serve customers again from 19th July 2021.

We’ve loved seeing the whole hospitality industry open once more and we wanted to explore some key takeaways from the first few weeks of late-night venues reopening and look ahead to see what this could mean for drinks trends in the coming months.

Countdown to Midnight

Late-night venues – nightclubs in particular – have suffered through lockdown restrictions the longest, remaining closed for the last 16 months. As the minutes edged ever closer to midnight on 'Freedom Day' revellers queued up for hours outside clubs across the country, eager to be the first in. London’s famous nightclub, Heaven, had a 600-person queue that stretched from Embankment Tube Station down to Trafalgar Square! When the clock finally struck midnight, the celebratory atmosphere was clear to see, with balloons, music and of course dancing once again taking place in these much-loved venues. The late -night had returned.

The celebratory atmosphere of Freedom Day gave bars a much-needed injection of sales. With the pressure once again on the late-night sector to find ways to disrupt the current preference for low-key evenings out, could embracing the theatrics and sense of occasion we witnessed be a way to tempt more people out for up-tempo occasions? The desire for a unique experience when out and about, particularly among younger punters, seems to be as strong as ever.

Safety First

However, there were also signs of apprehension among some returning guests. Around two in five (43%) of those who have visited nightclubs felt very, or quite, nervous before going out—five percentage points higher than the average consumer visiting the On-Premise since 19 July.

Then, less than 48 hours after restrictions were lifted, the UK government confirmed that by September customers will need to have been vaccinated to be allowed into these venues.  Although this wasn’t the best news for nightclubs, we’ve all learnt how important it is to care for each other in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few best practices the government recommends for venues include providing clear guidance to people before they arrive, encouraging use of hand sanitiser and minimising unnecessary contact. More detailed advice can be found on the Gov.uk website.

It’s not glamourous, but maintaining some precautionary measures can help ensure that beer drinkers, gin lovers & night-time revellers alike can all be encouraged to enjoy the fun of late-night venues, knowing that their safety is a top priority.

What could this mean for drinks trends?

With a third of the on-trade having already re-opened on April 12th, we’re starting to see quantifiable drinks trends appear once again. While a recent CGA report showed how the cocktail market suffered significantly during lockdowns, since hospitality has reopened, sales are booming. 35% of consumers bought cocktails during the 5-weeks of outdoor-only service! The report also showed that consumers were drinking shots and cocktails more often after the first lockdown, with cocktails outperforming spirits & beer.

Maintaining its position as a firm favourite, the Pornstar Martini is still the most popular cocktail, having grown 24.2% since 2020. So, while it’s been a tough year, cocktails have benefitted from consumers sentiment, outperforming other categories since April. Will this trend continue beyond freedom day, as customer stream back into clubs and late night venues? We think so.

Although nothing is certain, these figures show positive signs of an industry coming back to life. After an exceptionally challenging year, we’re thrilled to see that the thirst for going out is still as popular as ever!

About the author

Mary McCarron

Mary works in digital marketing for Matthew Clark. After a couple of years working in tech, she found her way back to the hospitality industry and can now be found talking all things cocktails, spirits, beer, softs and more across our website and social media.

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