Pubs around Bedford Borough say business is picking up and they’ve seen brand new customers joining their loyal regulars in the two months since re-opening after lockdown.
The government lifted restrictions on pubs and restaurants on 4 July, but imposed strict guidelines on how they needed to operate to help customers maintain social distancing and protect staff.
Pubs have put in one-way systems, screens around tables, reduced menus, provided staff PPE to wear, and started taking bookings or providing table service if they didn’t previously.
“Our regular customers have been very supportive, but we’ve seen some new ones too,” says Sue Blackman who runs The Cock at Pavenham.
The leisure industry has been hit hard during the coronavirus lockdown, and the government was called upon to do more to help them.
Improvise, adapt, overcome
In August the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was launched, giving people discounts on their meals during the week, to encourage them to support eateries across the UK.
Figures released today suggest 100 million meals have been claimed under the scheme across the UK.
“It’s been more like Eat Out to Blow Out,” says Diane Mitchell at The Three Cranes in Turvey, who has seen people making the most of the scheme.
“Many people have been having three courses when they’d probably only have one or two originally.
“We’ve also found Eat Out To Help Out Days very busy but then… people are coming back and paying full price on the other days,” she said.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I want to thank everyone, from restaurant owners to waiters, chefs and diners, for embracing it and helping drive our economic recovery.”
While pubs did have to adapt their service to adopt government guidelines, many say it’s actually helped business. Some venues are also continuing the schemes at their own expense.
Pubs now offering table service, like The Devonshire Arms, have seen customers stay for longer.
Whereas the Cock at Pavenham has seen an increase in demand for their takeaway menu, and The Three Cranes has delivered full meals to customers having dinner parties in their own home.
It seems that whatever is thrown at them, Bedford pubs have been able to adapt and do what’s needed for their survival. But there are concerns on the horizon.
“If we do get a second lockdown, we probably won’t re-open”
Bedford Borough Council have issued warnings to pubs and other venues that they will take action if they aren’t following guidelines, now other pubs are joining that call.
“If we do get a second lockdown, we probably won’t reopen,” says Sue. “Because our pub is so small, we are dependent on the weather… because we need people to use the outside space.”
“The Government hasn’t got bottomless pockets and if we get another lockdown, and it’s say for three months, for us to ride out that three months and look after our team, I just don’t think we’re gonna do it.”
Diane has similar concerns and urges the sector to stick together, “Some venues are not following all the guidelines and they’re putting other businesses at risk.
“We need to make sure customers are safe and staff are safe.”
Chris Chisholm, Head Brewer at Marston’s has also called for customers to only support pubs that are following guidelines.
“Go to the pubs that are making sure they are adhering to the guidelines because at the end of the day, what we don’t want is a second spike.
“If people going to pubs make sure owners adhere to the guidelines, there is more chance there won’t be a second spike”.
But the main message is to support your local “support the pubs that have been struggling,” says Chris.
The same message has even seen local pub landlord, Ronnie Toms of the Devvy appear as the face of a national #SupporYourLocal campaign.
In the ad he urges people to “go and support yours, because your local serves more than just beer.”
There are many independent pubs across Bedford that need our support, pubs that don’t always have automatic support from a brewery.
If they’re adhering to guidelines, join them for a pint.
|Stewartby Club||Broadmead Rd, Stewartby, Bedford MK43 9NB||www.stewartbyclub.com|
|Oakley Sports & Social Club||Oakley, Bedford MK43 7SU||www.oakleyssc.com|
|Legstraps||20 Keeley Ln, Wootton, Bedford MK43 9HR||www.thelegstraps.co.uk|
|The Sun||Grange Rd, Felmersham, Bedford MK43 7EU||www.facebook.com/thesunfelmersham|
|St John Arms||Knotting Rd, Melchbourne, Bedfordshire MK44 1BG||www.facebook.com/St-John-Arms-Melchbourne|
|The Cock at Pavenham||High St, Pavenham, Bedford MK43 7NJ||www.thecockatpavenham.co.uk/|
|The Three Cranes||High St, Turvey, Bedford MK43 8EP||www.thethreecranes.com/|
|Sharnbrook Playing Field Club||Lodge Rd, Sharnbrook, Bedford MK44 1JP||www.sharnbrookonline.co.uk/playing-field-association/|
|Kempston Hammers Sports & Social Club||134 High St, Kempston, Bedford MK42 7BN||www.kempstonhammers.com/|
If your free house or independent pub is not part of the above list, email email@example.com for inclusion.