Discover more from From Bromley with love
For members only
To lounge, or not to lounge, that is the question.
In case you missed the news, the Ravens Bar at Hayes Lane is now a private members’ club called The Ravens Lounge, and you, yes YOU slob-face, can become a member. Your season pass, just £115 (inc. VAT), entitles you to buy a drink in that place you’ve always bought a drink, only now… No, actually that’s it.
It may look exactly the same as the old Ravens Bar, but that’s just your oafish untrained eye speaking. This is a lounge. Like at an airport. Or like your living room if you were a bit posh in the nineties.
That word, lounge, haunts doomed premium ventures like the smell of a PVC banquette held together with duct tape. It’s a word the creatively challenged want like us to associate with luxury so they don’t have to come up with anything smarter. Wouldn’t it be better if they just said what they really mean? “No riff-raff.”
“You have two other bars”, they’ll say. And they’re right. Broomfields, for example, is a great space and would be a fantastic addition to any stadium. But it can only cope with so much matchday traffic. A queue is a queue, whether it’s at the Ritz or the pits.
“Go to Bear Island”, they’ll say. This Shepherd Neame venture is a fun addition, and it’s been popular during the sun-soaked preseason games, but from October onwards it’ll be a Polar Bear bar. Nothing says “I’m having a good time” like a touch of frostbite.
So, effectively, the club are once again forcing thousands of people to use one bar. Just when we thought a perennial problem at Hayes Lane had been solved, a business whizz took a look at it and said “hold my Pinot Noir…”.
Taking a balanced view, it could be seen as a move to ease congestion in a famously busy bar. But isn’t that what Broomfields is supposed to do? Closing the Ravens Bar off to an exclusive few will just cause congestion elsewhere. Balanced view debunked.
So perhaps it’s a staffing thing? As the club grows, the logistics of staffing the bars for matchday madness must be tricky. Having fewer punters in a bar means you can ease off on the staff. But isn’t that missing the point? Fewer punters means less turnover. Members may be paying a one-off fee for the exclusivity, but their drink orders aren’t going to match the bar’s true earning potential.
I’ll paint you another scenario. You’re a member (ooh, get you) but your friends aren’t. Do they have to organise a special matchday pass in order to drink with you? Or is it a case of “tea hut’s over there, friends, see you in fifteen.”
So, what is this really about? Is this another case of the club courting the White Company crowd? I mean, who could blame them? They’re wealthy, polite, and they smell of Seychelles fragrance oil.
In reality, I think the finger can be pointed at our £97 season tickets. This generous but hairbrained idea, no doubt scribbled on a Club Wembley napkin while Deadpool sobbed into his Aviation Gin nearby, has been wildly popular. Who’d a thunk it?
If you believe the hype, 2800 people have taken the club up on the offer. And why not? The gift horse’s mouth was wide open. Peer inside, what’s the worst that could happen?
With all of those pre-sold tickets, match-day revenue is likely to dive faster than a winger in white boots. But all is not lost. You have a cash-happy captive audience in your football fun-park. To make the most of them and claw back some cash, the bars, food hubs, and merchandise points need to be firing on all cylinders.
With that in mind, please keep that in mind, closing off a bar to all but a precious few is an utterly, utterly bizarre decision. That space should be churning, not lounging.
And, while I’m blowing hot air, having a single club shop at the far end of the stadium is asking for lost revenue. A sizeable portion of the matchday crowd enter and linger at the car-park end (seriously, we need a better name for that stand: Curva Car-Park?). Having a simple merchandise pop-up in that zone, selling scarves and t-shirts, would mop up passers-by before, during, and after the game. Easy money.
And why can’t I get a decent coffee at a football game? Okay, I think I’ve wandered far enough away from the point.
There may be another issue lingering behind the guarded door of The Ravens Lounge. Word on the street is Broomfields isn’t living up to its business plan. On matchdays it’s booming, but it was intended as a seven-day-a-week venue. But I ask you, what’s the draw on a rainy Wednesday night?
What’s persuading Dave from Orpington to hop on the 61? What’s putting Sally from Sidcup in a cab after a long day at work? At the moment, nothing. It’s a great space, a big space, but if you want an out-of-town venue to earn its keep Monday to Friday, you need events: music, comedy, beer tastings and alike. And you have to be consistent with it.
Yet, as I write, Broomfields isn’t even listed in the ‘Hospitality & Events’ section of the club website. Probably because there’s nothing on, except on matchdays. See the problem?
Solution? Hire a promoter and get some bands in there mid-week. And not O’Neill’s cover bands or whatever’s left of Earth, Wind & Fire, (Wind?), get bands with a following, DJs on the rise, rappers with clout, comedians worth watching. In other words, get Dave on that 61!
It must be hard watching something you’ve invested in, something you care about, failing to take off. But you have to address the root cause. Firing out scattergun concepts like a private lounge isn’t addressing the real issue, it’s just creating another one. More to the point, it’s fostering a sense of them and us, Popes and paupers, lords and serfs, White Company and Primark.
So how will this play out? Will the club double-down or backtrack? Their promotional social media posts have been greeted by the tumbleweed of outrage, but that tells a limited story. Has anyone actually signed up to become a member? Have you? Go on, you can tell us. We don’t kink-shame here.
Vent in the comments below. In the meantime, if you spot me in Broomfields, mine’s a single-origin espresso and a pint of Seychelles fragrance oil.
Thanks for taking the time to read the article above - you can expect more like this as well as videos, audio posts, interviews etc etc
If you havent as yet make sure you read the other articles in the archive.
If you’d like to show an appreciation for the work that goes into this newsletter you can buy me a coffee through the link below.
You can also find Peter Etherington on Twitter - here
Most importantly of all subscribe to the newsletter to ensure you get these updates direct to your inbox.
Thanks for reading From Bromley with love! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.