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No communal chanting: Dirty Blondes in Lockdown

Following on from my visit to Bootleg Social, I went to meet Jake Truman at the fairly new Dirty Blondes. Sandwiched between Church and Birley Street, Dirty Blondes had gone down a storm on opening with its SNES’ and Mega drives adorned booths, amazing pizza and walls pasted with old skateboard mags. I’d photographed Sophie Aspin here, Blackpool’s female Grime artist back in January for Big Issue North and wanted to see what their plans might be for opening their doors again to the public. I spoke to Jake Truman one of the partners in the business.

Jake Truman at Dirty Blondes - Image Claire Griffiths

Do you think Blackpool is more than Stag and Hen Culture?

Moving here [from Brighton] was the first time I had ever been north of Oxford. I was greeted by a sign over the M6 stating PIES and I thought, what I have let myself in for? I spent a lot of time in cities, we are trying to up the game in Blackpool when it comes to hospitality.

When we were opening, we invited in the mayor of Blackpool, Amy, and she talked us through developments which made me even more confident to open a restaurant. If you had said opening business in Blackpool was a thing a few years ago, I would have said no way. It goes to show there are lot of things going on, what with the conference centre which will attract a broader audience.

At the moment maybe Blackpool gets bad press because of a cheap stigma around B&B’s. I always compare Blackpool to Brighton with London people taking to the coast there, it can and does happen with Manchester folks visiting Blackpool seaside.

How did Lockdown effect you?
We were fortunate because from the moment we opened we were busy so we had cash in the bank. We wondered how was this going to play out at that point of lockdown, we did not foresee the social distancing thing that came after it. So, going into it we were quite naïve, but it has given us the time to work on marketing and further plans. There are silver linings to it, we pressed the pause and came back with a plan. The team here are brilliant, coming in doing bits – we have had an easier ride than some – just keeping our heads down.

Do People find a way to come together?
From a hospitality point of view its our jobs to make people feel welcome, bar staff being friendly and bringing people together. What comes with bars is the illusion you can do anything, interaction, meeting people that’s part of the industry, it’s the social aspect of a bar it’s like a small organism. If When you think about furniture in a place of how people move around a bar there is a psychology. As soon as you take the tables away – you lose the dynamics. There is a bar in New York with a curved bar, the sole purpose you can see everyone. It changes stuff completely. So, the first aspect is the design was to be creative. Big Perspex sheets everywhere, takes something away. Not having live music, is a hit but we feel like we will go more food led. Our audience is very varied, we got a lot of skateboarders in here at first but then a much wider group of people, like the mayor is sat there and a group of Grime kids over there – it’s like a weird Cheers with skateboard trucks.

Emerging from Lockdown and the future.
It’s like a garlic press. Putting pressure on people to do stuff that’s different away from the norm – lockdown measures, people find new ways to do things. I’m a booze nerd, say for example prohibition in the US inspired music, distilling, it changed alcohol forever. As soon as you put pressure on something it causes a reaction. We have a really good mayor currently, Blackpool with the right support has a lot of potential. However, our traditional tourists feed tourism and keep the place alive. The history and the beach are such a good positive for Blackpool and unique to the place.

When we took on the building, we made the alley safe and lit. We have permission to paint certain areas – we think it would be cool to have artists and just wash the whole of the back of Church Street. In London there are tours and there is already lots of amazing pieces of street art in
Blackpool. At The Hive recently they successfully showed international exhibitions and there is so much opportunity in Blackpool. Someone said to me recently – Blackpool can’t go any lower, the only way is up. People in big cities can be apathetic but when people in a place like Blackpool are all pushing for the same thing and making it happen the back story is more authentic.

Reopening and communal chanting.
Our deliveries started last Friday and when we reopen on site, we are taking bookings via social media. We can still fit 42 people in at distance. It will be table service and we are currently rushing to get the 2nd floor done. Background music will not be loud as guidance states that people raising their voices has to be discouraged and no communal chanting. Planning ahead we had already looked at table systems – but telling a bar that they can open within a weeks’ time is nonsense. There is positive and negatives but not taking into account how small venues run is disappointing but we remain optimistic for the future.

Keep up to date with Dirty Blondes here

https://www.instagram.com/dirtyblondesbpl/

https://www.facebook.com/dirtyblondesbpl/

Jake also added: Message the Facebook page to book a table, we’re already full for the opening weekend but there’s a cancellation list people can go on for last minute chance to get a table.

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