Since the launch of the award-winning Laki Kane on Upper Street, Islington in July 2018, Cocktails in the City has enjoyed a close working relationship with the business and bar owner Georgi Radev.
Bars and restaurants were amongst the first high profile casualties of COVID-19 when the government recommended people not to visit or use these socially orientated services and are predicted to be one of the slowest to return to normal upon the relaxation of the current lockdown measures.
So what does an independent bar owner feel about the current situation and what is he drinking at home during the lockdown?
How did it feel closing the doors on Laki Kane so soon after opening?
It was really hard to close something you have invested so much time and passion into. It's taught me that you can't take anything for granted in this life.
At the time of closing, we had 18 members of staff and with no idea about what the future held we had to let those people go as the company couldn't have survived and this was really hard as we are a very close-knit team.
Thanks to the governments' subsequent introduction of the furloughing scheme we have been able to bring everyone back into the business but without a clear idea of when we will be able to resume business, it is hard to make any plans for the future.
What are your biggest concerns as a bar owner currently?
The biggest issue for me and I'm sure many people bar owners is the uncertainty of when the business will start again and what it will look like.
I think a lot of the government initiatives have been excellent however if we reopen with restrictions on capacity and our customers aren't confident in coming back into social environments then it will be hard for hospitality businesses.
If I'm shut for six months I will need to work another year just to pay off the debts of rent and other expenses that have accrued during this downtime which is a situation out of my control.
How do you think the government have handled the situation?
I think the government has been doing good things, focussing on people who need it the most but that won't be enough at the other end as the businesses will need to survive to be able to pay the wages to people who need somewhere to work when they return, it is understandable to see how they have acted but they need to carry it on and will need to do more when the time comes.
You mentioned the strong team dynamic, how do you maintain that sense of family during this time of isolation?
We already had in place a couple of online platforms such as What's app and Facebook for group discussions and conversations and I speak to members of the team on the phone regularly so I feel the company is still close as a group.
Have you been back to the business since closing?
No, I invited my mother to come and live with us during this time and so have been very careful about not going out as she is classified as a vulnerable person.
How are you responding as a business to the "new normal"?
We want to continue educating people on rum and helping them enjoy great drinks so I have launched a YouTube channel entitled Mixology from the Fridge with tips on how to make tasty cocktails from home.
And how do you stay positive during this time?
I came to London 18 years ago with just £200 in my pocket and now own a bar and have won lots of awards and I believe that has all come about from being positive and having passion which I still have. In my day-to-day routine, I have found the commercial radio stations a great source of upbeat positivity as a nice contrast to the less "happy" messages you read about in the news and the papers.
What will you be drinking the day you feel the business is back to normal?
A friend of mine bought me a bottle of English Harbour Rum bottled the year I was born and that I've been saving for something special. It's on the back bar at Laki Kane and when we are back in business I will be cracking it open and enjoying with the team!
And finally, is their a drink you would recommend for guests of Cocktails in the City?
We've been lucky with the weather and so when the sun is shining you can't go wrong with a style of drink I've entitled "The Sorbetlini".
Very simply this is a blend of fresh fruit juice mixed with sugar syrup*, frozen and topped with champagne, or whatever you may have sparkling in your fridge.
To make a Sorbetlini blend your fruit of choice into a liquid pulp. Make a sugar syrup by dissolving equal parts of sugar into hot water (for example 200ml of water and 200g of sugar). Then blend together 2 parts sugar syrup to 1 part fruit pulp and leave to freeze.
You can support Laki Kane and many businesses like it through a range of initiatives including the #payitforward concept. Purchase a gift voucher now to be used when the bar reopens and enjoy some added value benefits whilst supporting a local business.