Dubai hospitality group looks to open beach clubs in Saudi Arabia

Sunset Hospitality is expanding Black Tap to Saudi, Iraq, and opening Arabic nightclub in Bahrain
Dubai hospitality group looks to open beach clubs in Saudi Arabia
Dubai-based Sunset Hospitality Group, which operates brands Black Tap, Azure (pictured) and Drift beach clubs among others, is expanding heavily into the Middle East with eight various openings planned in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain and the UK by the end of 2020.
By Lubna Hamdan
Wed 31 Jul 2019 10:42 AM

Dubai-based Sunset Hospitality Group is “actively looking” at opening beach clubs in Saudi Arabia, according to CEO Antonio Gonzalez.

The company, which operates brands Black Tap, Azure and Drift beach clubs among others, is expanding heavily into the Middle East with eight various openings planned in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain and the UK by the end of 2020.

Speaking to Arabian Business, Gonzalez said the company is considering opening outlets in $500 billion futuristic city Neom but is currently focusing on Jeddah.

In June, Dubai hospitality group Addmind opened nightclub brand White as a pop-up in Jeddah to massive backlash from consumers who argued that the venue’s dancefloor and ‘halal bar’ go against its conservative principles.

Gonzalez said the openings were “a very good experience to see how the market reacted,” adding that Sunset Hospitality has “been looking at mainly beach clubs in Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea next to Jeddah, and we believe there is potential for that probably by combining the beach experience in some sort of boutique resort.

“So we’re actively looking at that. We’re also looking at bringing a lounge - not so much as White did [in Saudi] but some sort of laid back lounge with a shisha element to it, and bring lifestyle into the concept. We believe in Saudi for the long term but we want to make sure we do it right,” he said.

Gonzalez added that finding the right partners is key to operating in the kingdom.

“Things are changing very fast in Saudi and sometimes you don’t know if reality is still there from one day to another so we want to enter with the right partners and operations and deliver the same experience we’re able to bring in Dubai,” he said.

Arabic nightclub

The company will also open Arabic nightclub Stage in Bahrain, which currently operates in Meydan Hotel Dubai, and is allegedly the “world’s largest Arabic nightclub” spread across over 24,000 square feet, according to the group.

It will also expand New York brand Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes in “a couple of weeks” in Jeddah’s Mall of Arabia, followed by another one in Riyadh’ University Boulevard Mall and Iraq’ Erbil by the end of the year.

“Black tap is the obvious one [opportunity]. We expect to land around 6-8 outlets of Black Tap in Saudi Arabia over the next 3-4 years,” CEO Gonzalez said.

In addition, the kingdom will welcome Brooklyn casual friend chicken and waffles concept Sweet Chick for “younger groups who eat out most frequently” next year, according to Gonzalez, while pizzeria Luigia, which currently operates in Dubai, will open in Bahrain in Q1, 2020, followed by Riyadh and Jeddah later in the year.

In October 2019, it will also open its latest concept Mood Rooftop Lounge in Dubai in Meydan Hotel where it will boast a 180 degree city view.

UK plans

As for Sunset Hospitality’s UK expansion, it will include the opening of Sweet Chick in Central London in September 2019 and then in Birmingham in April 2020.

The group is planning on introducing new brands and expanding Greek restaurant Ammos and Sushisamba, which blends Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, and currently operates in London, Miami, Las Vegas, and Amsterdam and is set to open in Dubai.

Sunset is a hospitality investment and management founded in the UAE in 2011 by CEO Antonio Gonzalez, COO Nazih Hafez and Serge Dfouni to bring international brands to the country and develop home-grown concepts across dining and nightlife.

Its other outlets include Joe’s Backyard, a rooftop on the 19th floor of the Holiday Inn in Dubai Festival City, as well as ChickInn and L’Occitane Café Dubai.

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