As the fight for survival continues across the UK hospitality industry, one speciality beer shop in Sheffield is celebrating seven years in business and its founder, Jules Gray, is determined to keep looking forward.
Jules Gray is not your average business owner. Way back in 2013 she founded Hop Hideout – one of the UKs first ‘drink in’ beer shops – and soon after went on to establish flagship events Sheffield Beer Week and Indie Beer Feast. In fact, Jules has led several significant ‘firsts’ in what continues to be a male dominated industry, and now she’s about to celebrate another – the seventh birthday of Hop Hideout.
2020 has been one hell of a rollercoaster ride for the beer industry. For Jules, the last 12 months have seen her going from the highs of celebrating the booming craft beer scene across her various projects, to the whiplash-inducing pandemic-driven emergency stop and the immensely challenging times that ensued.
She’s always tried to remain positive, though, and through keeping in touch with her regulars and the support of the local community she’s found a way to invest her energy in hope.
Jules has big plans for the rest of 2020. She said: “I’m focused on celebrating Hop Hideout’s 7th anniversary in November, which feels momentous given the year we’ve had. We’ve organised a big Zoom virtual party on a beer and cats theme – showcasing a new design we had commissioned.
“We’ve got yoga, a virtual brewery tour, a beer label art talk by a well-known beer writer and a pub quiz with special guests – plus plenty of cat themed beers.
“Looking beyond the birthday, I also want to make sure Christmas is as special as it can be this year. We’ve created some great craft beer and craft cider advent calendars and we have more goodies lined up.”
Jules’ positivity is what’s needed right now. With the hospitality sector experiencing the biggest loss of jobs than any other sector this year, there’s some way to go to get back to any kind of normal.
According to UK Hospitality more than 90 per cent of fully COVID-secure hospitality and pub businesses are operating at a loss, and thousands of otherwise viable businesses in Tier 3 and Tier 2 areas have already closed. The leading trade association is calling for more Government support to ensure businesses can survive as they believe hospitality – a sector that, prior to Covid, directly provided 3.2 million jobs across every part of the UK, and a further one million in dependent supply chains – can lead the revival of the economy in 2021.
As ever, Jules is keeping her eyes firmly fixed on the future. With values strongly rooted in people, beer experiences, good causes, and community she’s already working on plans for 2021.
Jules said: “Indie Beer Feast usually happens in March but I’m hoping we can maybe bring an autumn edition next year. In terms of Hop Hideout, product-wise we want to continue our focus on fine cider and natural wine which we’ve been investing a lot of energy in recently.
“I’m genuinely excited for the development of the UK craft cider sector. We also plan to explore new bricks and mortar sites – obviously this just got a whole lot more challenging but I do still have hope and I want to invest in local high streets, so watch this space.”
In terms of the wider industry, Jules is already no stranger to collaboration, peer support, and working to make beer a more diverse and equal space, but she hopes to see much more of this, post-pandemic: “If just some good can come from all this, I hope next year sees an increased collaborative approach across the independent beer sector, using these shared experiences to come together.
“I also hope that craft beer businesses continue to challenge themselves to be open and welcoming to all – from an actionable and economic foundation, not just marketing talk. There’s not only hope in hops; there’s a real opportunity to do good and help each other.”
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