“Dubai is the Wild West,” says Tony Habre, smiling. “In Dubai you either make it or you fail; there is no gray zone. You have to be perfect at everything.” The CEO of Addmind hospitality group is currently making it, operating some of the city’s most well-known restaurants and entertainment venues. But he has teetered on the edge of failure before, and he doesn’t want to go back there.
In May 2020, during COVID-19 lockdowns, the business outlook was bleak and, according to a survey by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, half of restaurants and hotels expected to go out of business within months. Dine-in revenues fell by 52% in March 2020, according to a survey by JLL, an industry consultancy. Habre had just opened three new venues: Paradise beach club and restaurants Iris and La -Mezcaleria. Paradise closed permanently, but the two restaurants reopened after the lockdown and have survived. Keeping venues afloat took tremendous creativity. “The first moments of COVID were crazy and terrifying,” Habre says. But they adapted, and to keep business going, Habre and his team started doing deliveries from their restaurants and pop-ups serving food and drinks, and kept an active social media presence to stay connected to customers. “I think survival is the essence of creativity, and we were beyond creative during COVID,” he says.
That creativity got Addmind—and Dubai—back into expansion mode. Habre plans to open three more eateries in Dubai this year: Babylon and Raspoutine in Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), as well as Leña on the Palm. All three are apt to be as influential on the local nightlife landscape as his past ventures have been.
Habre opened his first…