Yao Lu’s Shanghai bar is set to re-open after coronavirus closed it; here’s his 11 tips on getting through these times

Yao Lu owns Shanghai bar Union Trading Co, and is set to reopen the doors for the first time since February 12.

As Australia’s hospitality industry works through the weekend in these most unprecedented times, bar businesses in China are slowly getting back to trade, having seen the worst of the coronavirus outbreak hit and having been shut for weeks if not months.

One such bar that has been through the worst and is getting ready to re-open its doors is Shanghai’s Union Trading Co. We’ve written before about just how much we love this bar — it is one of those bars you love to find in any great cocktailing city — and that’s down to the warm, inviting, no-bullshit hospitality of its owner and bartender Yao Lu.

We asked him what his outlook is on the next few months, now that Union Trading Co will be able to reopen the doors.

“[I’m] stressed, but seeing the light,” he says. “It will still be rough even after we open, business won’t be anywhere close to what it was for the foreseeable future.

“But we are carrying on.”

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Lu has been posting about his experience during the shutdown of bars in Shanghai, which came into effect on February 12, and his experience has been written about on eater.com.

Lu has kindly permitted us to republish his advice on how to get through the worst of times, which he originally posted to Instagram (you can see the post below the edited text here). It is straight-up, realistic advice — it acknowledges the realities and the need for social distancing, and even temporary bar closures — but it also offers hope. Take a look at it below.

Words by Yao Lu, Union Trading Co, Shanghai.

It has been almost 2 months since the news of the outbreak. No one was trained for this, and it seems friends around the world are now scrambling for solutions. Though no expert on viral-time operations, here are some thoughts and ideas we have after fighting the good fight on ground zero, and hopefully it might help someone in desperate times.

1. Take a deep breath, and switch from work hard to work smart mode, this will hurt, but this too shall pass.

2. Don’t be a dick, these are times for unity and understanding, not fear mongering, rumor spreading and blaming. There is no place for xenophobia in our industry. I actively refrain from turning on the news or read any type of opinion blog. Shifting blame and saying this is a China/US bio weapon doesn’t help anyone, it’s stupid and ignorant, this is what you really need to know. Wear a mask, stay the fuck home, wash your hands, tell your people you love them. That’s IT.

3. Don’t be a dick, Part 2: This is not the time to promote that Drink The Bar Dry happy hour, the safety of your team and guests come first, yes it will hurt, but the sooner people start social distancing, the sooner medical professionals and authorities can isolate the sick, the sooner this virus can be controlled, and business back to normal. What’s the point of trying to make a profit now if there is no business to be open two months later.

4. Unemployment laws, paid holidays, etc are different in every country, HOWEVER, IF YOU DO DECIDE TO CUT LABOR COST, BE HONEST AND TRANSPARENT. Have that very awkward sit down meeting with the team, have it multiple times, make time for your team to know how they feel, how these decisions will effect them, what you can do to help and tell them where your company stands, share your fears. This is the time where leadership is paramount, be their rock even if you are freaking out inside, because these are the people who make up your foundation, and what you realize is, the sooner and honest you can be, the more they support. By not doing so, it’s fucked up, bad optics, and potential lawsuit.

5. Set up updated SOPs for sanitation and hygiene, train the staff on the potential risks of COVID – 19, how it spreads, what are the symptoms, prevention, have face masks, hand sanitizers and gloves readily available for staff and guests if they need any,

6. When coming up with ideas to survive, don’t let anyone tell you something is stupid. Deliver cocktails, stream online cocktail classes, make Youtube vids, who cares if it’s a marketing stunt or it’s something you have never done, this is survival mode, and there are no wrong ways as long as you survive.

7. That said, don’t expect any of the above solutions to be the silver bullet. Though our cocktail delivery service at Union Trading Co is working better than I expected, it is only 8 to 10 percent of what our regular revenue is. We are currently partnering with various brands to create as much passive income and cashflow as we can to keep the bar breathing, we have set up individual QR codes for staff with our @laibabeverages delivery platform so they themselves have a chance to earn some passive income for every bottle that’s sold. None of this will help you break even, but at least it can give you a breathing chance.

8. Regarding perishibles, freeze it, candy it, pickle it, make a vinager, make a jam, do whatever you gotta do to reformat potential wastes to cut cost. If you are doing a delivery menu, rotate the menu on a daily basis so no additional purchases need to be made, and reduce any account payables, yes this takes some extra work and the mise en place might be different everyday, but right now every dollar counts.

9. Partner up with the community (online of course), bounce ideas off each other, see how everyone can help, listen to what they are going through. This is a fantastic time to come together (online, of course) and brainstorm new creative ideas collectively, and bond over hard times.

10. Pressure your local representatives and landlord for tax breaks, rent discounts, any form of aid you can ever imagine. Be shameless, take advantage of any benefit you can find, read the fine lines in rent contracts.

11. Stay strong, take care of yourselves physically and mentally. After two months we are finally ready to reopen later this week, though business might not pick up just yet, but at this point we celebrate every small victory we can get. Just remember that this too will pass, and we all come out of this stronger and wiser.

 

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It has been almost 2 months since the news of the outbreak. No one was trained for this, and it seems friends around the world are now scrambling for solutions. Though no expert on viral-time operations, here are some thoughts and ideas we have after fighting the good fight on ground zero, and hopefully it might help someone in desperate times. 1. Take a deep breath, and switch from work hard to work smart mode, this will hurt, but this too shall pass. 2. Don’t be a dick, these are times for unity and understanding, not fear mongering, rumor spreading and blaming. There is no place for xenophobia in our industry. I actively refrain from turning on the news or read any type of opinion blog. Shifting blame and saying this is a China/US bio weapon doesn’t help anyone, it’s stupid and ignorant, this is what you really need to know. Wear a mask, stay the fuck home, wash your hands, tell your people you love them. That’s IT. 3. Don’t be a dick Part 2: This is not the time to promote that Drink The Bar Dry happy hour, the safety of your team and guests come first, yes it will hurt, but the sooner people start social distancing, the sooner medical professionals and authorities can isolate the sick, the sooner this virus can be controlled, and business back to normal. What’s the point of trying to make a profit now if there is no business to be open 2 months later. 4. Unemployment laws, paid holidays, etc are different in every country, HOWEVER, IF YOU DO DECIDE TO CUT LABOR COST, BE HONEST AND TRANSPARENT. Have that very awkward sit down meeting with the team, have it multiple times, make time for your team to know how they feel, how these decisions will effect them, what you can do to help and tell them where your company stands, share your fears. This is the time where leadership is paramount, be their rock even if you are freaking out inside, because these are the people who make up your foundation, and what you realize is, the sooner and honest you can be, the more they support. By not doing so, it’s fucked up, bad optics, and potential lawsuit. ?continues in comment section?

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