We all know that pubs are having a rough time during the current restrictions, indeed some may never open again, as tenants struggle to satisfy the requirements of their lease requirements to a Brewery or other commercial landlords. Whilst the government is supporting the sector with its financial measures, it is interesting to see how Community Pubs are going to survive.
The reason for this is quite simply the structure they have and the very reason they are what they are.
1/ They are owned, usually by a co-operative company or similar, and that means no commercial landlord to satisfy. The whole reason the pub was bought in this manner is that the community funded the purchase through shares in the co-operative. This means the co- operative have many more options when it comes to keeping the pub and its tenant going, and more reasons to do so, lets face they were purchased by the community to support the community not for pure financial reasons.
2/ As they sit at the heart of the community and are used for community purposes then it is easy to mobilise the same community to adapt the pubs offering as required, giving the locals what the locals want and will use and support. So the reasons to support the pub at a time like this is also about the life and soul of the community and not just profit, the bottom line,or dividends.
Here are some examples of how community pubs are adapting and why they will survive.
The Abingdon Arms at Beckley in Oxfordshire is providing a small shop for locals to get a range of products and produce, whist providing a local takeaway service for both food and drink.
At The Crauford Arms in Maidenhead they are also providing take aways BUT as well a walk through pick up your pint service for Draught (bring your own container).
The very first community owned pub in the UK, The Old Crown Pub in Hesket near Newmarket has shown WHY a community pub really works in these circumstances. They have a Pub and a Micro Brewery, both are tenanted arrangements. So the co-operative owners have given both businesses a rent free period 'for as long as it takes' and also paid the pubs insurance bill. To ensure the Co-Operative can do this any share encashments are suspended and if required the Co-op will make a cash call on existing shareholders but this is not thought likely. The Pub and Microbrewery are provided a take away service for food and drink and deliveries for vulnerable residents.
The George and Dragon in Hudswell in the Yorkshire Dales was supported by the Princes Countryside Fund and the man himself was around for the opening in 2010 along with other notables. The Pub is owned by a Cooperative of 140 members and they too have suspended the rent to be paid by the tennant and they also offer a take away service. More importantly they have enlarged the Shop facilities in the pub, which was something they had planned but this crises has spurred them into action. So the Village now has a much enlarged shop facility for products and more importantly locally sourced produce so the shop works for everyone.
The St John Inn near Torpoint in Cornwall has opened a village shop in record time to support its community in lockdown. A standalone shed has been built next to the pub, in the car park, and initially opened with stocks of bakery and dairy essentials that will build into a wider range of groceries and other locally sourced goods. The shop is unmanned during the lockdown so that customers can observe social distancing rules and operates a cash-only honesty box system. Items are priced in multiples of 10p to make cash payments easier.
They explained: “We were fortunate in that we had most of the materials we needed to build the shop as the lockdown was announced. We worked hard during the early weeks in a stifling heatwave but managed to open with some very basic essentials. When we come out of lockdown the shop will continue to serve the village with a wider range of stock and will complement the pub business.”
So when the crises ends and we are allowed to open our Pubs again, community pubs will have survived and also, alongside the community owners, have adapted to the ‘New Normal’