The future of The Social Distance Inn

Date: 25 September 2020

Since its opening the Social Distance Inn has been a great success, indeed far more so than we anticipated. This is to a great extent due to the hard work put in by Richard, Sharon, Simon and all the staff. Despite increasingly stringent regulations, it has not only provided a place where regular Hoppers members can drink but has also attracted a new clientele to the Club and proved the concept that Hoppers can be a food and drink venue throughout the week.

However now that we are approaching Autumn, colder weather and shorter days coupled with the latest restrictions on indoor operations mean we need to start reviewing its long and short term future.

In the short term we intend operating on the current seven day week basis with the food option every day. For operational reasons we will have to be closed on Monday 28 September but open on Monday 5th October.

For the two weeks commencing Tuesday 29 September only one third of the Dooley Suite will be available due to the Lancashire ‘Flu Vaccination Centre operating from the remainder. A decision will then be made as to whether future opening will be on a more limited basis. As the indoor capacity will be reduced for this two-week period, no indoor bookings will be taken for individuals but only for household groups of two or more so we can maximise usage. Temporary Ladies toilets will be provided as access to the main Ladies toilets will not be possible.

To continue operating safely it is essential that all customers adhere to the Covid-19 regulations as understood by the Club. If these are ignored there is a very real danger that individuals will be fined and our operations suspended. This means in particular:

  • observing social distancing regulations and
  • not forming groups of more than six anywhere or more than one household indoors.

Having taken advice we are advised that a group is formed when “there is a gathering when two or more people are present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other”. In other words, the fact that people are seated separately, no matter how far apart, means that if they are “socially inter reacting” then they constitute a group.

We would ask that all customers respect this ruling and do not try and creatively get round the regulations or challenge staff who point out that they are in breach. It cannot be over emphasised that it is in your and the Club’s interest to comply.

In the longer term the success of the Social Distance Inn has presented us with a dilemma, albeit a nice one to have. The Masterplan was predicated on an expansion of the Wainwright Bar and an improvement of the main Ladies toilets. The assumption had been that:

  • the layout of the Club made this a more attractive option than developing the north side of the clubhouse:
  • the north car park was not being viewed as the main entrance
  • an extended Wainwright Bar could be used all week when the main club was used for rugby purposes, conferences etc.
  • the facility was easily seen by the public, the majority of whom consider the club to be a private members club
  • the facility would look like a more upmarket pub/café facility rather than a rugby clubhouse

However, increasingly customers are getting used to entering the Club from the north car park and arguably the focus of the Club has shifted with the success of the Social Distance Inn. The westerly aspect of the patio overlooking the pitch and the proximity to the newly refurbished playground is also a draw.

Therefore, we are evaluating whether our initial development focus should be on the north end of the clubhouse. This would involve providing Ladies toilets and improved Gents as well as possible enhancements to the patio area making it more suitable for use in less clement weather. This major decision will be addressed by the Management Committee in the coming weeks.

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