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Baa Bar: Navigating lockdowns, Tiers and extended furloughs

Elaine, CEO of Baa Bar
Elaine Clarke is in charge of the business during one of the most challenging periods Baa Bar had ever experienced

As part of Be the Business’ ongoing Rebuild project, we’re catching up with small business leaders from different industries. In this series, we’re following the challenges and successes of Baa Bar, a collection of bars and clubs in the North of England. 

None of Baa Bar’s venues have opened at full capacity since the first lockdown was announced in March 2020. Since then, restrictions on mixing, the Tier system and two further lockdowns means that the business has struggled to make ends meet. 

Days prior to the March lockdown, current CEO and long-term employee Elaine Clarke had been due to leave the company after almost 30 years in the business:

“I felt that I could do with a change,” she said. “We structured the management buy-out [for my business partner] and we had everything signed off. Then, a couple of days later, COVID hit us, so the deal was off the table.”

Elaine was now in charge of the business during one of the most challenging periods Baa Bar had ever experienced.

“I’ve come full circle back into the business because I own 75 per cent,” she continued. “It was all quite gut-wrenching. It’s taken me time to get my head around it and process it.”

 “We’re in quite a fraught and fretful position”

Following the 2008 recession, Baa Bar was remodelled to five successful venues across Nottingham, Leeds and Liverpool. 

Since March 2020, two of these venues have been closed permanently due to restrictions, while the remaining three have been able to open in a limited, stop-start capacity.

“I’ve run my business for 30 years,” Elaine stated. “I’ve had a lot of challenges go past me, but nothing that I could never handle – but this is something unprecedented.”

We’ll be catching up with Elaine every month to find out how Baa Bar is getting on. To follow the company’s story, navigate the dropdowns below to find out what the updates are across the key challenges the business faces.

The challenges

Managing staff on long-term furlough, keeping a tight grip on the company’s finances and maintaining a positive outlook throughout the pandemic have been just some of the challenges Elaine has dealt with during 2020 and into 2021.

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