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9 Insights from a Brussels bar owner as bars and restaurants re-open

9 Insights from a Brussels bar owner as bars and restaurants re-open

Tania Shamshur, owner and bartender at Edgar’s Flavors cocktail bar, reflects on the past few months and how we can all do our part to ensure bars safely re-open and remain open.

1) You must be thrilled to be able to reopen the terrace of Edgar’s Flavors! Why is the reopening of bars and restaurants so important?

Bars and restaurants are spaces of joy, where people meet up and have a great time. Socialising is such an important aspect of a balanced and healthy lifestyle, so we’re excited to return to lifting spirits of our customers as of May 8th! We’re here to make it a worthwhile experience, for you to reconnect with friends and family, and to finally enjoy a night out in this wonderful city again.

2) What has been the biggest challenge this past year?

The hardest part has been the economic impact of the lockdowns and the invoices that keep on piling up every month. It’s been heart-breaking to see so many friends in the business making the difficult decision to close down their life projects.

Going from a very social and active lifestyle to one at home without any clarity as to when we can reopen or if we will reopen has been frustrating. The hospitality sector is social by nature and transitioning our work to the online space is almost impossible.

On the social end, I’ve also missed seeing all our customers and sharing our cocktails with them. The human connection is what makes this job so special and rewarding.

Tania Shamshur, owner and bartender at Edgar’s Flavors cocktail bar.

3) Have you found any new and creative ways to stay busy and support your business during the crisis?

It’s been tough to keep a routine during lockdown and stay motivated, but I always try to be creative and see the positive side of things. I’ve focused on preparing take-away cocktails for customers, which is a fun way to bring some joy and quality drinks to their homes. I’ve also been active on social media, participating in zoom events with mixologists from other countries, and organising online cocktail masterclasses.

I’ve been coming up with a few new recipes and have also adapted our menu to include the ABV or strength of each cocktail, because I think it’s important my customers know this!

4) How have you prepared your venue for the re-opening of terraces?

The safety and well-being of our customers is the top priority for us right now. So, in order for everyone to feel safe and comfortable, we have invested in outdoor heating and umbrellas. Whenever people stand up, they have to wear a mask.

We’ve also implemented social distancing between the tables, and placed hand sanitizer bottles all over the bar. We keep a record of our customers’ names when they come in. Despite all these new safety measures, I want to assure our customers that the spirit of our bar will remain the same: we will always be at the service of our customers, paying attention to their needs, and ensuring that they are safe and enjoying themselves as always!

5) How have your customers been lifting your spirits during these challenging months?

The support that some of our customers have given us during these challenging times has really meant a lot, and I will always be thankful to those that helped us when we most needed it. I am thinking in particular about a special client that started ordering from us every week since the second lockdown started. Her support has truly lifted our spirits!

6) What message do you have for the public as you reopen?

Please, come back to the bars and restaurants as soon as you’re ready, and remember to respect the safety measures to ensure we keep each other safe and our businesses open.

And if you’re able to come visit us on our terrace, you can continue supporting us by tagging us in pictures and sharing our content on social media. This helps us a lot!

7) How can governments better support the hospitality sector?

My message to the government would be to ensure that all bars respect Covid-19 measures, and to be stricter with those who are not following the rules. If owners do not properly implement these measures, this jeopardizes both customers and bartenders, and could lead to another closure of the hospitality sector. I would also ask the government to find a way for landlords to reduce or delay rent payments. There are some venues with such high rent that are having significant difficulty surviving!

And finally, please give us clarity and ample notice about your plans to re-open the entire Horeca sector.

8) How do you see the EU playing a part in the recovery of hospitality?

On the EU side, we keep hearing about an EU Recovery Fund, but very little about how it will be directed to hospitality venues that are hanging on by a thread and which are essential to the social, cultural, and economic health of our communities. I hope that those working in the ‘Brussels Bubble’ realise that our venues are a big part of what makes it so special and to please ensure funds reach our sector to keep our businesses alive!

9) One final message to fellow bar owners, bartenders and customers as you reopen?

We are all in this together. I know it has been tough, but we now have a positive milestone to look forward to. Let’s all make sure to respect the safety measures in place for a smooth reopening and to continue lifting the spirits of our customers. Courage!

And for our customers, we are ready to welcome you! Please help make reopening a success by socialising responsibly while enjoying yourself!

You can taste Tania’s cocktail creations at Edgar’s Flavors at Rue de la Concorde 63, 1000 Bruxelles

This interview is sponsored by DIAGEO, global spirits and beer producer, as part of their Lifting Spirits Campaign supporting the recovery of the hospitality industry.

Drink Responsibly.

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