Kemptown, Brighton, 19 July 2021, ZEXPRWIRE, This pandemic has made us all realise how much we need entertainment and escapism, but few people feel as passionately about it as Alex Proud.
Alex Proud is proud to be one of “many brilliant venues in the West End that have been affected by the pandemic. I desperately hope they survive. They’re run by great people who care about this country and have poured their blood, sweat and tears into their businesses. We’re not just doing this for the money. If it was about money I’d have gone to work in the city. Like most restaurant owners, performers, and entertainers I do this for love and from a sincere belief that what we do makes a difference. We are the places people go to celebrate, to create memories or forget terrible days. People have their birthdays, their hen parties and their first dates in bars and restaurants across this country. This is about more than a nice meal out.”
But Alex Proud says he’s an optimist. “The hospitality sector has taken a massive hit over the past year but I believe we’re only going to come back stronger. I can see the West End starting to come back to life but we must be vigilant. I know that to thrive in the current climate we need to be both more competent and more pragmatic. I suspect the virus is going to be with us for years – but that we will learn to live with it and to manage it. Now we need to get on with what we’re good at: entertaining people.”
Proud was one of the first hospitality businesses in the West End to re-open last Summer. As many historic venues closed their doors, including London’s famous Cafe de Paris, Alex Proud refused to give up on the company that has his name above the door although he admits that reopening was not without risk.
“We took huge financial risks. When you’re spending tens of thousands of pounds kitting out your premises with glass screens and socially distanced seating, advanced ventilation systems and introducing new cleaning protocols and training programmes, there is always the risk that the government will arbitrarily change the rules, or move the goalposts and deadlines, or tell you to close just as you’re starting to welcome back customers. We have been firefighting since last March but whatever happens we’ll survive.”
Alex Proud hasn’t just re-opened his venues, he’s re-invented them. The venues have all benefited from complete renovations and redecorations. Alex Proud says
“The venues look incredible, the food is tastier, the cabaret is sexier and saucier. We have upped our game on every front.”
Proud has employed a new executive head chef Antonio Vacca, who hails from Roka and Nobu, and has introduced an exquisite Asian Fusion fine dining menu across the Proud Group and Proud has also added to it’s cast of acrobats, fire breathers and aerialists with previous cast members of Cirque de Soleil, rescued after it filed for bankruptcy last year.
Alex Proud is clearly taking no chances, he’s giving customers something special to entice them back to the West End but it isn’t just what goes on front of house that matters to Alex. Throughout every lockdown, once permissible, Alex Proud welcomed his regular performers in to use his venues for rehearsals and performance practice. “Our performers are family,” says Alex Proud, “what is a performer who can’t perform? It’s their life blood. We wanted them to have a space where they could hone their craft and at least feel they could work even if it was without an audience”
Alex Proud has been vocal across the news channels in support of hospitality and occasionally in condemnation of stringent government guidelines, but now audiences are back, Alex is clearly in his element.
“We need our customers to come back. Now more than ever the hospitality sector needs people to support it because hospitality is more than just restaurants and bars. It’s moments of joy, it’s spending time with friends; it’s leaving your troubles at work or at home to go out and celebrate life itself. Entertainment isn’t a luxury. Eating out isn’t a nice-to-have. These are the things that make life worth living.”