Pubs and bars across West Midlands ‘must adapt’

Business

Government grants have helped Phil Kennedy, who runs The Summerhouse on the Staffordshire/Dudley border, and when the restrictions are lifted, “we want to be there”, he said.

“What do you do? Once the vaccine rolls out we’re hoping for a better time – you can’t throw in the towel, it’s not worth it now,” he said.

The new lockdown means people must now stay at home. and also forces pubs to stop takeaway services.

But Bhavnesh Chamdal, general manager of independent bar The Paper Duck in Harborne, Birmingham, said pubs and bars must continue to adapt and just keep going.

The bar, which has sold craft beers and organic wines for three years, introduced home deliveries as March’s lockdown was brought in. The manager hopes they will “cover the bills”, as it loses its takeaway and click-and-collect services.

“It’s about continually trying to adapt,” he said.

“I think it’s always prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.

“If we can just keep going and as long as things are paid, like rent and the bills, then we will be OK until we can fully reopen.”

Mr Kennedy, whose wife Karen has worked at the pub for more than 20 years, said they did not expect a full lockdown to happen and were now left “looking out the window every day on to an empty car park”.

In October, Mrs Kennedy told BBC News the couple were running the pub at a loss and had lost “thousands and thousands this year” prompting fears they would have to close and may not reach Christmas.

But her husband said despite the difficulties of opening and closing over the past year, they now had to keep going, receiving £1,000 every fortnight as part of the furlough scheme.

‘Very emotional’
A reassuring aspect of the past year has been hearing from the customers who call to see how the couple are, he said.

“We’re a well-established pub and we’ve done fundraising in the community over the years and have some very loyal and lovely customers.

“It’s been very emotional actually as the phone is going every day with customers asking ‘how you doing? Are you OK?’. It keeps you going.

“We know that all these people will miss us if we go, so as the sun comes out and the ice melts we’re thinking right, let’s look at some painting and touching the place up.

“We know that when the restrictions are lifted… and we’re really thinking from mid-March we can really open, we want to be here.”

David Gregg. who runs Albert’s Shed music venue in Telford and Shrewsbury, said the lockdown gave him certainty and now it was “just all about surviving”.

His venues, which support grassroots music and can host up to 1,000 people combined, have been closed since March apart from running several socially- distanced gigs for three weeks in the summer.

He has cut his staff from 50 to 25.

“The new lockdown is almost a relief to be honest. It gives certainty whereas before it was less so,” he said.

“Our position is, it’s pointless to just wallow and have self pity, you’ve got to look at how best to come back.

“This second wave was not unexpected and we feel that once we can fully reopen, there will be such an appetite for live music and entertainment.

“If there’s one thing [the pandemic has] taught people over this year, I think it’s what live music and entertainment means to them.”