Sunset Hospitality plans H2 openings in Dubai despite Covid crisis

Group has revealed plans to open various venues in Studio City, Tecom and Mall of the Emirates

Sunset Hospitality Group CEO Antonio Gonzalez.

Sunset Hospitality Group CEO Antonio Gonzalez has revealed the company is ploughing ahead with a number of new openings in the second half of the year, despite the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The group, which employs over 1,000 people, revealed an 18 percent increase in revenue growth in 2019 and planned ten new openings this year pre-Covid-19.

Although Gonzalez conceded that the onset of the virus and the various restrictions, which saw hospitality entities closed for over two months in the UAE as part of government efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, had a “terrific impact” like a “tsunami” on the company, he insists it’s back to business as usual – within the parameters of the health and safety guidelines from authorities.

He told Arabian Business: “Because of how diversified we were, some of our divisions were able to open very quickly, as early as May. Most of our businesses are back in semi-normal operation. The only ones that are still not open are those in the nightlife, the nightclubs and lounges remain closed. We expect some time over the next few months to reopen, depending on the government action.”

Expansion plans

Reopenings aside, it is also full steam ahead with the expansion plans previously revealed.

In the first quarter of the year the group opened a new Black Tap in Dubai Mall and Azure Beach in Lebanon, while further openings are planned between September and October, including Cloud in Studio City and Lolas, a Spanish tavern concept, which will open in Tecom in the first week of October.

Another Black Tap is also getting readied to open in Mall of the Emirates, with demand for the popular brand across the world, in Shanghai and Macau and in Europe.

“Somehow we may open around eight outlets this year. It depends on the final timings,” said Gonzalez.

However, plans to open the internationally-renowned SushiSamba on the 51st floor of The Palm Tower, and the Aura Skypool on the 50th floor, which were initially scheduled to open in September, have been delayed until next year.

“We have agreed with Nakheel to delay that opening until September next year to ensure that we open such big projects at the time when the market is back, where there is full demand,” said Gonzalez.

At the turn of the year, the group formed two new division, Fast Casual and Living, in addition to the existing Dining, Daylife and Nightlife divisions.

“When you plan, you never plan for a pandemic coming your way. When you look at 2020, it was going to be one of the most exciting years in our history. We were so driven to make this a fantastic year,” said Gonzalez.

As a result of the Covid-19 impacts, a hotel which the group was scheduled to open in May this year has been pushed to 2021 as we as “another couple of new openings”.

Gonzalez added: “2020 is about survival, let’s keep everybody working, let’s keep our employees busy and paid, until we know where we stand, then gather and make 2021 successful.”

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