Dicks Tea Bar, the legendary nightclubs in Val d’Isere and Meribel and The Den restaurant and bar in Meribel are under the new management of WhiteCap Ski, in time for the 2010/2011 ski season. Both Dick’s venues and The Den will launch in early December, allowing anyone visiting the Alps this year to have the same right of passage as many before them. This is one of the most anticipated launches in years as Dicks has been the nightclub for all ski bums, celebrities and royalty alike for over 30 years.
WhiteCap Ski is owned by 26 year old entrepreneurs Seb Hall & Alex Fateh. Both regulars at the previous incarnation of Dicks, both noticed that although the venues were integral to their respective resorts, a new breed of “alpine nightclub bum” demanded more than the venues could give. It was decided that a full upgrade was needed; however not wanting to stray away from what defines a great ski bar. By combining the necessities for après ski that of fun, service, drinks choice and music, Dicks is aiming to take nightclubs into the 21st century.
Dicks Tea Bar, Val d’Isere was opened in 1979 by Dick Yates-Smith. Under his guidance the name became synonymous amongst the great and good, the jet set and celebrities that would inhabit Dicks. Dick sold the group in 1997 to Brown Rock who in time sold it to Mark Warner and then most recently it has been run by TUI, all large tour operators. Whitecap Ski is the first small ‘family’ organization to hold the chain since Dick Yates-Smith.
Seb Hall says “Although customers have remained loyal and still go to Dicks in their thousands, a new lease of life and facelift was clearly needed. Improvements will see new lighting and sound systems installed as well as a complete new layout, new furniture and improved service across the board.”
Dicks has always been known as a “seasoaniare’s” second home. A large part of this is because of the drinks on offer. Whitecap Ski has will be introducing an improved table service that offers a range of premium vodkas and champagne as well as the obvious beer, wine and spirits. Other new additions include ‘The Dicks Ice Tea’, a booze packed blue alpine variation on its Long Island cousin. ‘The Ski Boot’, a 4-liter vodka-champagne cocktail served in a ceramic boot shaped vessel, is also now available, table service only. The procession received when ordering ‘The Ski Boot’ is worth it alone. Dry ice, sparklers, you get the gist.
An equally exciting prospect within the group is the creation of ‘The Den’, Meribel’s first gastro bar which is replacing Pizza Express above Dicks. Through renovations this summer, customers will now be able to enjoy a warm, comfy, wooden floored haven whilst listening to live music and sampling a reasonably priced menu that brings something different to Meribel. The diverse choice offers tapas-style dishes and sharer plates from across the globe. The ever-changing menu ranges from crispy duck pancakes to cottage pie to a cheese board from the local fromagerie.
Alex Fateh says “It’s gone from being a pizza restaurant to a comfy, vibrant bar that serves quick, light food until 1am. There are 30 other venues in town offering pizza, pasta, burgers; we are doing something totally different.”
Standard price per dish will be 6 euros but the more you order the cheaper each dish becomes.
WhiteCap has a long-term plan and growth strategy whereby they will look to invest in staff and forge relationships with experienced managers in hope of moving into other resort areas.
Seb Hall says: “Our managers, Omar and Fraser have been excellent. They know the resorts better than we do and were instrumental in helping make decisions and develop the brand. I think they’ve enjoyed working for a smaller entity and being a part of something special.”
Locals have been equally responsive. “Both Meribel and Val d’Isere have small close knit communities on both the Anglo and French side. Whilst renovations happened this summer we were fortunate enough to meet some great people. The tourists are massively important but it’s the locals and seasonaires that make this place tick. The personal touch has probably been missing since Dick’s time and being such a small operation we hope to bring it back.”