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The Garden House revisited

Manager of the Month winners continue community support in lockdown

It was typical of Jonathon and Tanya Childs to see their BT Sport Manager of the Month win back in February 2020 as a chance to help others.

After all, the reason the managers at Craft Union’s Garden House in Norwich were awarded the title was the incredible work they do to support their community.

The pub runs a weekly food bank for customers in the area who are struggling to make ends meet, provides free Christmas dinners and organises visits and calls to ease loneliness and isolation.

Couple this with a compelling sports’ offer and a beer garden that would be the envy of most and they were very clearly worthy winners of the trophy and voucher for the BT shop.

But rather than spend that money on themselves they instead bought items such as a games console and TV for the local children’s ward and an iPhone to help the elderly stay in touch with loved ones.

All this was before the dawn of COVID-19, so it will come as no surprise that the couple have spent the time since then doing even more for their community.

Jonathon outlines some of the work they have undertaken: “During the first lockdown: we worked with the UK Community Network and set up a team of volunteers in Norfolk to pick up prescriptions, deliver food boxes, and shopping for vulnerable people.

“Before the second lockdown we started to work with the charity Only a Pavement Away. They sent us 350 flasks which we distributed to homeless people in Yarmouth and Norwich. They also sent us 3,000 meals which we distributed through key service providers to homeless and vulnerable people.”

Things spiralled and after securing additional funding they were able to grow their food bank offering.

“Customers donated food and the media cry for help donations came in, which we distributed for those in need.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They also provided scores of Christmas hampers to families and collected for local schools.

Meanwhile, they still had a business to run, and were grateful for the support they received from their pub company and the wider industry.

“When we were able to reopen, trading was very brisk. Craft Union gave as a sensible template to work to.

“The local licensing authorities were great to work with and we had very few issues with the new measures. We would like to praise our customers for their compliance during difficult times.”

To boost the offer, they introduced food in the form of pizzas at what has traditionally been a wet only business, used grants to buy heaters and canopies for the garden, and continued to screen major sporting events.

During the time we could trade it enabled our trade to stay steady even during the worse weather,” he adds.

In lockdown periods social media has been vital in enabling the couple to stay in touch with customers, some of whom were unable to leave their homes.

“We embraced social media... Facebook and Twitter. We updated customers with information and also ran fun quizzes.

“During the summer our Meet up Mondays group (created to combat loneliness) met up outside, socially distanced. During winter is has been mainly on social media,” he adds.

They are now looking forward to a time when they can re-open their doors and serve their customers in the traditional pub way once more.

But even through the toughest of times for their business and community, the couple focus on positive.

Jonathon says: “We’ve learnt that there is terrible suffering with people going hungry, but we have also learnt that human kindness helps to overcome this.”

  • During lockdown we have been catching up with past BT Sport Manager of the Month winners to see how they have been coping. Click on the links to read about the Royal Pier and McBride’s on the Square.



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