“Once an Art Deco cinema, the iconic building that is 9 Grand Junction Road has, throughout history, provided a mecca of entertainment for the people of Brighton, welcoming guests throughout the decades all looking to spend a few hours in pursuit of pleasure.”
Today, Grosvenor Casinos has renovated the building into it newest guise; Pier Nine Brighton, a vibrant 24 hour leisure, entertainment and gaming destination.
Construction got underway the end of 2019 at the £5.5 million venue last year, with all three floors of Pier Nine has being designed for modern work, rest and play, including space to work and meet with friends and colleagues, stylish bars, two classic casinos, a variety of fun and competitive socialising games, as well as a karaoke space to hire. Bringing a sense of style and sociability without the membership fees, this new kind of third place is entirely inclusive and proud to be rooted in Brighton’s community.
Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of entertainment and facilities on offer, Absolute Magazine decided to get the full lowdown from Ethan Dewitt-Bukater, Director of Experience for Pier Nine Brighton, as well as sending our ’Man on the Ground’ Tony Shattell to sample and report back to you on the full Pier Nine experience…
Pier Nine Brighton is in a very good location in the town and as it’s only 5 minutes from the centre…We have a fantastic location, as you say, 5 minutes from the lanes and we’re right on the seafront between the Palace Pier and the West Pier.
What would you say are some of the most exciting new aspects of Pier Nine Brighton? Pier Nine is a 24/7 entertainment hub which includes several bars and food offers, a wide range of entertainment, competitive socialising, karaoke and of course all your favourite casino and electronic games.
Would it be fair to say in addition to this being a major refurbishment, that it’s also seen the venue undertake a major rebranding that includes the name along with the likes of a stylish Live Sports Bar?
Our vision was to develop a venue which would give our existing customers more reasons to visit us and encourage trial for a variety of new audiences. With the changing leisure landscape and the change in consumer requirements for their leisure time over the past five years or so, we knew this had to be more than a refurbishment.
With that in mind, we undertook a thorough programme of customer insights to look at the product mix, venue design and of course branding. The challenge as always, is how do we create a better venue for our existing customers at the same time as attracting new audiences and that’s always a fine balance. However, listening to the customer feedback we hope we’ve done just that.
We didn’t call the venue Grosvenor Casino Brighton for many reasons.
Firstly, research told us that for new audiences, the word casino can be a barrier to trial. Secondly, its Brighton and there is a preference for independent venues over big brands in the locale, and lastly, we have a repositioning job to do so that our customers see this as so much more than a casino. We’re proud of the Grosvenor brand and wanted to use this to emphasise the expertise around the gaming elements but the venue has many more reasons to visit than gaming alone.
Restaurants are a proven winner with attracting patrons. What has been the approach with Pier Nine Brighton with regards to the investment in its new restaurant? We’ve been reviewing our F&B strategy nationally and have found that some customers want to sit down to eat for an occasion, many of our casino customers just want ‘fuel for play’ and others want a far more casual dining experience. Therefore, we’re created several options. You can enjoy a casual dining experience in the club house, sit down to a 3 course meal in The View, whilst enjoying the sea view and a glass of your favourite wine or order food to your table straight from our app anywhere in the venue. This venue is really about how the customer wants to interact with each of the individual elements.
Infrastructure with these new refurbishments is extensive. What was your organisation’s choice of company to install all the display lighting and sound systems and its interactivity with the venues management operating system? It absolutely is and we’ve worked hard to ensure we have the right systems in place to ensure we create the right atmosphere in each zone relevant to the customer needs andduring the day. This includes lighting and music. We have a wide range of suppliers who work with us on these projects to ensure the customer experience is what it should be.
The design and the layout of the table gaming area is impressive. What has been the feedback from patrons? Our gaming team seek feedback from customers every day on the set up of our product mix and layout on a national basis. These learnings are fed into all our venues, including the Grosvenor Casino at Pier Nine. The refurbishment has just been completed so it’s too early to get formal feedback, but we’ve been sure to take our customers on this journey with us and anecdotally the feedback has been positive so far.
Is there a seasonal impact on the Casinos revenue or is it steady throughout the year? Before the refurbishment we didn’t see huge seasonal trends in the business, but we had a very core customer group who mainly lived in and around Brighton. However, the vision for this investment is to continue to look after the customers we know and love but also attract a range of new audiences which will include holiday makers and day-trippers – so we would anticipate some seasonality moving forwards.
How have guests treated the venue – as a party, entertainment and dining venue or as a casino? It’s very early days but this venue has many different experiences to offer different audiences. The premises itself is a bit of a Tardis – as we’ve taken over an adjacent building. The benefit of this means there are lots of different areas or zones which offer a different experience and atmosphere to meet the needs of each individual customer group.
How does the entertainment and casino venue compare with the other alternative attractions in the Town? Brighton is a vibrant cultural city with more experiences on offer than anywhere else I can think of. That’s almost a blessing and a curse when launching a new venue. Its means people are open minded and ready to trail new experiences but obviously it’s highly competitive. However, it tends to have lots of smaller independent venues, but it doesn’t have anything like Pier Nine to date.
In fact, I think Pier Nine is a UK first, not just a Brighton first.
Is there an average age group or does the Casino attract patrons from 20s to 70s+? We hope it will appeal to everyone. It certainly has a broad enough range of experiences and as I have said, lots of different zones offering different atmosphere and product environments.
Tony’s Take on Pier Nine..
I am not normally a big fan of casinos. Mainly because I am exceptionally bad at gambling. So, when my friend called and invited me to join him in checking out Pier Nine, the new entertainment hub-come-casino, I was hesitant to say the least. He managed to convince me, and I am glad he did, as I had a lovely time and am very much looking forward to going back!
Firstly, Pier Nine is more of a leisure centre for grown-ups than a casino. Yes it has slot machines, card tables, and a whole host of ways to gamble away your money if that is your thing, but it is also so much more, with a massive array of non-gambling fun to be had twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Formally a Grosevener Casino, the building has been redeveloped by the rank group and is the first of its kind in the world! Why Brighton? Because the commercial director Laura wanted to bring the business to a town she grew to love by spending the her formative years in the 90’s living in the city, where she enjoyed the vibrant night-life it had to offer.
So we made our way into this new look premises not knowing what to expect and what we were greeted with when we entered was a beautifully well designed and considered interior, in keeping with the buildings art deco architecture. This was after we had our car valet parked for us in their own secure underground carpark!
We were greeted by a lovely young lady called Laura who gave us the lowdown on what to expect and convinced us to become members, which took only a few minutes of our time and made us twenty pounds better off as we took advantage of the opening offer where they would match the first twenty pounds you load onto the card for slots.
There are of course areas where you can play slot-machines, as well as areas for traditional tables with roulette, poker and blackjack in a very tasteful setting that is a far cry away from the usual garish interiors you would expect in a casino.
The first floor has a room just for such games, whilst taking an elevator up to the second we were greeted with a huge grandiose room which hosts all manner of fun to be had! You can enjoy similar games to downstairs but in a more laid-back setting but on top of this there are a vast array of different non-gambling gaming activities, including pool, shuffleboard, retro arcade games, and electric dartboards! It has its very own karaoke room which is very smart indeed.
There is a bar with a fantastic array of well-priced drinks and its very own food hall serving a vast array of delicacies, from dirty burgers through to much healthier and more refined dishes. Just as we sat to take it all in and enjoy some delicious buffalo wings and a beer, a live band started on a stage in the centre of the room, and after they belted out a couple of hits the singer invited the customers to come and sing with the band themselves! As we had not quite had enough to drink to go and sing in front of a load of strangers at this point we opted to play some pool and darts, and even had a little go on the blackjack where I actually doubled my money!
Before we knew it we had spent several hours at Pier Nine, and had an absolute blast! I have already made plans to visit again with some friends and am sure will find myself wandering in for a game or two on a night out in Brighton. The staff were all really lovely and could not do enough for us.
Pier Nine is certainly an exciting addition to Brighton’s entertainment scene, and I cannot wait to go back again and again.