Lost In Music
Published on Apr 10 2013 4:36 PM in Pub/Bar/Nightclub
A listed Georgian building in Dublin’s city centre is the unlikely home of Lost Society, a nightclub that is bucking trends and catering to the kind of corporate and upmarket customers that many thought had vanished with the Tiger. Emily Hourican spoke to operator Eileen Denham.
Eileen and Jason Denham opened Lost Society in November 2010, in the grandiose, atmospheric surrounds of the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, and proceeded to give the Dublin nightclub scene something different, more sophisticated. “We have worked in the bar and nightclub sector for over 15 years,” Eileen explains, “so when the opportunity to acquire the lease on this unit came up, we jumped at it. We had worked with units in the South William Street area previously as consultants, so we knew the area very well. We have silent investors in the company.”
What was their starting concept for the business? “The concept behind Lost Society was to open a stylish, customer-service driven business targeting a cross demographic audience. Lost caters to an over-23's market from Thursday to Saturday in the Georgian Rooms, and we also host a number of niche club nights in the basement club.”
Timing of course is everything, and 2010 was an ‘interesting’ year (as the Chinese might say) to start a nightclub. How has the last year in business been? “Business has been extremely strong,” says Eileen. “The unit has established itself in the market place, and we have a very strong team in place to make sure that it is operating in a professional and customer service driven platform.” Are she and Jason starting to see an improvement in terms of revenue and footfall? “Yes, business in the city is improving. I work closely with BIDS (Business Improvement District), and also the tourism sector to ensure that the bar/nightclub sector gets support in initiatives. The restaurants in the area are trading well and within the South William Street area, occupancy is almost at 100%. When we moved into the street, occupancy was closer to 70%.”
So what has been the biggest challenge with Lost Society? “Rent and rates in the area and also the restrictions to outdoor seating. The SEO rates for trading late are also very costly, for what amounts to an extra two hours of trading. We feel that the government need to address this, as a number of units in the area are trading as seven-day units under restaurant licences, and therefore not having to pay the extra fees that we incur.”
What could the Government or local authorities do to make your life easier? “The SEO system needs to be changed, as it is putting late bars into financial trouble as not all places are charging a cover charge to absorb this cost. Also the off sector pricing and grocery act needs to be amended. It is very difficult to compete with cheap drink from off-licences when the on-trade have to pay for so much in terms of overheads.”
What kinds of things have she and Jason done that have had a good impact on the bottom line? “We have very tight cost control measures in place to help GP, that don't affect the overall professional operation of the unit or customer experience. Our marketing mix is 80% social media and digital-based, which means that we do not have huge above-the-line marketing expenses, which also helps.”
“Our weekend customers are very loyal, and our corporate bookings are increasing. Customer service is an integral part of our offering alongside event-planning solutions and very attractive corporate packages. We also work alongside cutting-edge promoters to offer a wide section of music styles in the venue. It is important to stay at the forefront of what is going on in the scene, and remain a leader in the market place, by constantly evolving and progressing the company forward.”
In terms of specifically targeting the corporate market, what kinds of things are they looking for? “We have a good relationship with event management and PR companies, we offer bespoke signature cocktails for their events alongside canopies. We also do social media support for launches and corporate events. The corporate market in Ireland has changed over the past few years, and companies have to constantly offer more to keep the business coming in.”
Eileen and Jason are planning to re-launch a daytime offering for Lost Society within the next six months, although their 90% of their business is night-time trade, because diversification is increasingly key to running a successful operation. “Times have changed,” Eileen agrees. “The same crowd are no longer going out more then two nights a week, so it is important to target different crowds on different nights. Our business focuses on pre-bookings, which means we have a guaranteed number of people coming into us at the weekend before our doors even open.” Are customers as price conscious still as in recent years? “Customers are definitely price conscious, but we feel that a well-run unit with excellent customer service and a good entertainment offering is more important then cheap drink. It is very difficult for businesses to drastically reduce drink prices and then bring them up again; doing that is generally a last-ditch attempt at saving a failing unit, and has been proven to have no longevity in the trade.”
Eileen & Jason's C.V.s
Together Eileen and Jason Denham have combined experience of almost 20 years in the pub and nightclub sector, from re-branding units to working with distressed units. Jason previously worked with Capital Bars as head of operations and marketing, where he was responsible for seven units including Cafe en Seine, The George and Break For The Border. He was also the original GM of the POD, and worked with FBD to launch Alchemy nightclub in Temple Bar. Eileen and Jason previously worked with the Odeon Group, Dakota and 4 Dame Lane. Eileen assisted in the launch of Sweeney's, and has assisted different banks with a number of distressed units. Previous to this Eileen and Jason worked as promoters in the Kitchen in Temple Bar and a number of units across the country.