In the winter of 2015, in upstate New York, the Lovett brothers and their father discussed the various challenges facing both the live entertainment sector and hospitality industries. For Ben Lovett, who had spent his career both on and off the stage building a reputation as a pioneering force in the music industry, the steady decline of independent music venues across the World was causing sleepless nights. Whilst more people than ever were buying tickets and attending concerts, the variety and diversity of the spaces were reducing and what remained was becoming homogenous. With rising property costs and various other industry specific factors working against independent venues, the traditional commercial model was increasingly becoming unsustainable, and with announcements of iconic venue closures coming almost monthly, Ben was determined to find a way to turn the tide. Meanwhile, Greg Lovett, who had dedicated his life’s work to the hospitality industry working alongside some of the biggest operations in the World, the challenge facing bars and restaurants was also becoming harder and harder. Relevancy and retention of customers were at odds with ever shortening attention spans and a relentless schedule of new concepts being launched in major cities across the World. Chefs had become celebrities and how a plate of food translated to instagram was growing more important than how it actually tasted.
The solution to both challenges lay in the strength of the other. Live entertainment venues have long been fantastic gatherers of people and culture, look no further than Broadway or the West End, some of the busiest neighbourhoods of New York and London respectively. The venues create destinations but they are only open for 4 hours on a handful of nights per week. This makes it very challenging for them to pay the same rent as an operation that is open from breakfast til late every day. But venues are always relevant, in fact the best venues in the world have stayed relevant for over 100 years and there are very few bars and restaurants who can claim that. Therefore creating incredible experiences for food and drink next door or across the street from the venues means that they don’t suffer the same challenges many bars and restaurants face in terms of retaining footfall.
Thus the company, tvg [the venue group] hospitality, was born.
The first destination was anchored by Omeara and was based in London Bridge. Ross Stirling led on creative from day one and Phil Renna joined as the second employee to help grow the team and establish what was a fairly complex operating plan for what has now become the Southwark Quarter. It launched in October 2016 to great success and in 2017, Omeara was already being recognised in top venue lists and year-end lists celebrating London’s most relevant cultural hotspots. Jack Clulow soon took over as General Manager and built on the success even further. A few years later and Jack, alongside an excellent team at London Venue Group headed up by Joe Mckechnie, now looks after not only the Southwark Quarter but also The Social, an iconic grass roots destination of more than 20 years in Soho as well as Goods Way, which houses London’s newest 600 capacity venue, Lafayette, alongside a whole array of premium bars and micro restaurants, nestled in London’s redeveloped King’s Cross neighbourhood.
In 2018, tvg hospitality was approached by the City of Huntsville, Alabama to submit for a request for proposals on a new cultural beacon for their rapidly growing City. With both Ben and Greg’s background working in the US, alongside industry veterans Ryan Murphy, who had most recently been the County Director for Cultural Events in St John’s County, Florida and Graham Brown, a recent graduate from the rigorous MBA program at Acton Business School in Austin following 10 years in industry, submitted a vision for an amphitheater that went far beyond what Huntsville had initially expected. In collaboration with Mike Luba, Don Sullivan and Jeff Kicklighter, Huntsville Venue Group (hvg) was born and it wasn’t long until the team started to take shape under the stewardship of Bob Gillett, who had built the incredibly successful Easy Tiger in Austin as well as a number of other hospitality concepts across a long career in industry. With the design contract and subsequent operations contract of this new 8,000 capacity venue, Ben and the team committed to building a pipeline, a grassroots network in Huntsville itself by building small and mid-size venues in market. The first of which will join a part of The Lumberyard property which for many years has been a favourite of downtown Huntsville residents.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, tvg hospitality has grown its teams across the United States and has committed to projects in Austin, Nashville and Washington DC as well as more to be announced soon. Lisa Seelinger was recruited as Chief People & Culture Officer following a widely admired career in HR both within Hospitality and beyond to ensure the rapidly growing team reflects the culture and values embodied by a privately held, family business. Jesse Mann joined as Chief of Staff having led teams at some of the top live entertainment and media companies in America for more than 20 years. Growth and investments are steered by the company’s CIO, Dan Pine. Jayne Davis came onboard as Chief Operating Officer. She has more than 14 years of leadership experience across the hospitality industry, ranging from food & beverage, hotels, private member clubs, airport operations, fine dining and more.