Biking Bar, 1st anniversary: what should have been a great party with official start Ghent-Wevelgem in front of our door, now ruined by 'corona'-crisis

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Biking Bar, 1st anniversary: what should have been a great party with official start Ghent-Wevelgem in front of our door, now ruined by 'corona'-crisis

A few days before the start of Ghent-Wevelgem, just in front of the Biking Bar... This could have been a great first anniversary party, just 12 months after what was alreaday a real stunt-opening... We had planned to write today an extraordinary, positive and enthousiast article... Full of news about new tours, programs, a VIP-day with the cycling classic of 29 March... For the first time starting in Ypres, in stead of 'Ghent'... The Biking BOX-cycling experience center was about to 'explode' in the most positive way of its significance. But then came 'corona'... Video? Klik of kopieer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WC_W8lSv3w
News-article: https://drive.google.com/file/d/17D1eKzpNeIYhtwA7I8aUhA1_b5ebgq5R/view?usp=sharing

We write March 31, 2019, a year ago about … Opening with Ghent-Wevelgem, passage in full final at the door. It seemed like an idle dream when we got hold of the key to this firmly worn-out building with all other functions. Clearing debris was initially the message. We only had four to five weeks to get this building in the Menenstraat ready for opening. Yes, it was a building with potential. A stately mansion with a spacious garden at the back, but otherwise more a worn out story around February 20 at the takeover, we were really faced with a ‘mission impossible’ given our self-imposed ‘crazy’ deadline for ‘festive opening’ (the course!) … In no time and only provided day and night work we succeeded in the stunt: we built and evolved from absolutely nothing to a ‘real’ bicycle cafe, including beautiful bar, furniture, sanitary facilities and already a start to 200 m³ large garden terrace, which we admittedly would not open until June. But the ‘jungle’ at the back (12 containers, first cut and chopped ‘wood’) was already out on March 31! Read More

Stuntwork on 31 March 2019…

The guests poured in curiously and en masse. The race images flashed on our brand new 3 large TV screens and in the afternoon the heroes of the vélo swept by our door with great cheers. On the way to their finish in Wevelgem. We still had to schedule closing days in April and May for necessary further finishing touch work. Only from June-July we could gradually organize a full-fledged operation. And the catering aspect of the Biking Bar gradually started to catch on and be known. But our cycling tourism story, which had actually been growing for five years, turned out to work immediately and provided the essential income to survive the 1st year. Biking Bar itself grew systematically, as a bicycle and live sports café with growing clientele. Tourists and locals alike became more and more enthusiastic about this unique ‘cycling interior’, which above all had to be cozy and accessible to everyone. More then 50 Belgian Beers, this helps of course. Our Biking BOX outdoor story, which existed for 5 years without its own operating building, now got a fantastic homebase. Before-during-and-after, the whole picture for our vistors was clear and ready for a very promising season 2020!

 

Preparing for a 2020-breakthrough, till Corona-hurricane came…

Now, one year later: Biking Box / Biking Bar received the Ypres girls, known as Cyclocats on March 8 for a delicious ‘cycling breakfast’. They fancied the new interior, during the last winter months further fine-tuned with a lick of ‘warm’ colors, original bicycle lighting, an also very original ‘Biking Boutique’ … In short, the Biking BOX / Biking Bar showed itself to the world in early March as a business that was ready for the ‘big demarrage’ and this would happen from the even more historic start of Ghent-Wevelgem, just in front of the Biking BOX / Biking BAR doors! It would be a real party, never seen before…. Dutch cycling professional Laurens Ten Dam had already paid a visit and the ex-9th-from-the-Tour-de-France would broadcast a podcast a few days before Gent-Wevelgem from the Ypres Biking Bar … Many international cycling journalists would undoubtedly frequent the Biking Bar the night before the race. Our promotional campaign ran smoothly, new drink and menu cards being prepared … Rental bikes all tuned for the new season. Because in the meantime the reservation agenda with large (school) groups, guided cycling tours, bicycle rental was already fully booked for March-April … BUT THEN suddenly: corona-lockdown … Everything gone, like snow in the sun. 4 X beaten K.O. Read the economic press and you will hear where the blows fall: catering, tourism, events, bicycle rental … That’s 4X Biking Box / Biking Events / Biking Bar … Nothing is standing right after the Corona hurricane, an even harder storm than what we literally had to endure in February on so many desolate Sundays …

 

What now? 

What now? Analyze, measure the damage, see if there are any solutions and which ones to choose? First look on the cost side (a lot of negotiation work with owners of the building, providers of internet and other services …) plus find out with which short- and longer-term income models may work to help standing  up again …. Our accurately drawn up and very realistic budget & business plan in 2020 is in the rubbish bin, although the figures were strong and credible too. Nothing’s left of that. We must look around us, searching for government and other support and then decide whether a ‘new’ restart ‘is possible and from what moment it is appropriate to re-open… Now, we still must stay closed by governement’s health policy, which we understand completely! Yesterday we had an uplifting Skype meeting with our team. It gave a good feeling: not alone in the storm. And together we considered our 4 crystal-clear, possible future scenarios. Yes, even the worst-case ‘end-of-story’ … Ostrich policy makes no sense. But we ‘d rather still look at Version 1: go for it again and, after a while, return ‘stronger-than-before’. After all, this is a widely acclaimed, rock-solid concept, firmly founded on ‘proved figures’ in a growth story built up year after year. Just as Ypres’ resurrection in the 1920s after the Great War, Biking BOX/Biking Bar may re-arise when the ‘smoke around our heads has disappeared’ … And be strong like a ‘flandrien’ (the old word for famous Belgian cycling champions)!  So yes, in coming days and weeks we still try to finish our To Do list (garden terrace, shop at the back, beautiful new drink and menu, new tour concepts …) … But above all, because of corona-lockdown, we also make time for the most essential: family – garden- home and try to cycle a few hours every day. Because happiest on my bike, in case I ever forgot (quod non)! Fortunately this is still allowed by our government here! Health to all!