Co-Founder of Barrelhouse Group, Mikey Enright, has told The Shout‘s sister title, Bars and Clubs, how he and business partner Julian Train are looking at life after lockdown and planning to grow over the next five years.

With The Barber Shop currently closed, The Duke of Clarence only offering Sunday lunch and construction work at impending distillery and bar Hickson House suspended, the group could be forgiven for feeling negative about things.

But Mikey is far from negative even in these testing times, he told Bars and Clubs: “I just think that looking forward there is a lot to look forward to. Whenever the vaccination rate gets to where it needs to be then it’s just going to go ballistic.

“Hopefully the Government will stick to their long lunch voucher scheme on Fridays, and I think Friday will become the biggest day of the week for us – we might even open The Barber Shop at midday, which we’ve never done.

“I just think it’s going to become like a half-a-day public holiday every Friday. People are going to come out of work at lunchtime on Friday, they are going to have lunch and stay out for drinks. Granted they probably won’t last into late Friday night, but I really think it will become like an unofficial public holiday. So that’s really exciting.

“Interstate travel as well, when that opens up because let’s face it, we’ve been a bit starved of that and it’s been very frustrating to be booking things that then get cancelled, so it’s exciting that will open up again, however they decide to do that if it’s just ‘you’ve been fully vaccinated so you can travel’, people are excited to do that.”

What this lockdown has also enabled Mikey and Julian to do is focus on the business, and it’s given them time to make some big decision about the group and its team.

He said: “We’ve got a bunch of new hires and it’s really good that some of the team will be moving into new roles as well. We’ve got a really good infrastructure, me and Julian want to grow Barrelhouse Group, we’ve got plans to grow it over the next five years, which is pretty exciting and we’re investing in that now.”

He added: “We’ll have a group chef, we’ve got a group manager, we’ve got a very loyal team. Our staff retention has been great even through the pandemic, we been able to keep hold of really key personnel, so we’re really happy across the board.

“We are able to make a lot of decisions about things in the business because we’re not being distracted by our current businesses. So we’ve got time to make decisions about any embellishments in the bottle, or labelling, there’s no distractions so we can really focus on the brand and ticking boxes. That’s a real positive for us that we’re making time to make some big decisions.

One of the really key and interesting things coming for the group is Hickson House, the new distillery and bar planned for opening in The Rocks in September. While construction is on hold, Mikey is still very excited about the project as a whole.

“It’s going to be an awesome thing for the whole team, we’re going to have access to a distillery making gin and whisky. It means that the educational process across Barrelhouse will be brilliant. They will be living and breathing spirits and they will know the process first-hand. They are all going to spend a day in the distillery watching a batch of gin and a batch of whisky getting made, from start to finish.

“So it’s a really hands-on training program, they’ll understand the process, this is how it all works, they’ll be physically helping out shadowing the distiller and really understanding everything, which I think is pretty cool.”

He added: “We’ve been fortunate in the sense that we’ve got this new business and it’s an exciting project that a lot of the industry are really keen to know more about. So there’s a good educational part and a clear pathway for the team, so it’s been a bit of a saviour for us in terms of our retention and being able to promote people within our team.

“The only thing is we’re being held back by the current restrictions.”

It’s clear from speaking to Mikey that there are frustrations because the timetable for the restrictions is unclear, but over-riding that is the positivity not only for Hickson House, but for the industry as a whole on the other side of this current lockdown. With business planning for the group helping to put a solid infrastructure in place, it’s very exciting to see what the future will hold for Barrelhouse Group.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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