With pubs closed for the foreseeable and live sport on hold, you could forgive licensees for putting their feet up.
But many BT Sport customers are using the unwanted downtime from the COVID-19 crisis to stay connected to their communities.
Here’s how a handful have been keeping themselves busy in the month since their enforced closure.
Beer to the doorstep
If people can’t come to the pub, then take the pub to them. That has been the motto of award winning licensee Matt Todd of the Wonston Arms, in Hampshire.
Once the pub was ordered to close its doors on March 20, Matt ensured stock in the cellar did not go to waste by arranging deliveries to locals.
The move was so popular that he has continued the service, picking up fresh cask and keg beer and taking it to residents within a short drive of the freehouse.
He explains: “It has been so successful that we will continue to do it even after we can reopen the pub.”
“We’ve done 600 deliveries and about a quarter of those are to people who hadn’t been in the pub previously. The ideal scenario for us is to convert them so that they will visit us when they can.”
Matt even takes a barstool from the pub with him so he can sit down and speak to some of his locals, at a socially responsible distance of course.
“I’m glad we can take the beer to customers but what people really miss is the interaction. The deliveries are good for us but I am looking forward to when we can reopen and get people through the doors again, that’s what running a pub is all about.”
According to statistics released by CAMRA, nearly 1,300 pubs have registered that they are running delivery services.
Where Matt has focused primarily on delivering fresh beer in recyclable PET containers, Godfrey Cook of Game On Sports Lounge in Totton, Hampshire, has also been delivering food to customers.
It’s our way of taking the pub to the people and making sure that we stay in their minds.
“It has been really busy and we have been changing the menu regularly. We have hot meals such as fish and chips, pie and mash and curry and we provide provisions such as eggs, milk and toilet rolls too,” he says.
As well as keeping Game On going, Godfrey has also taken up a temporary job at Tesco.
“You just don’t know how long it is going to go on for so you’ve got to do what you can,” he adds.
Open for off-trade
McBride’s on the Square’s decision to open an off-licence at the family pub 20 years ago has proved to be a “godsend” according to licensee Iris McBride.
The shop at the pub in Comber, Northern Ireland, is open seven days a week and provides a contactless service on site whilst also taking orders for deliveries.
“It has been really busy, much busier than usual,” explains the former BT Manager of the Month winner. “We are selling lots of beer, cider and wine but it also keeps us in touch with the community.”
“I think people need it, it keeps them connected and they can just have a little chat about how people are.”
As well as running the off-licence, Iris is using the time to renovate the pub so it will be in sparkling condition when it finally reopens.
Nobody wanted this but it does give you the chance to do those jobs you never get round to.
“We are painting the pub and sanding down all of the outside tables for repainting,” she adds.
Staying close, while social distancing
The Ingate Free House in Beccles, Suffolk, is closed, but licensee Michelle Payne’s to do list is as big as ever.
One of the ways the pub is keeping the community together is by creating a virtual wall of Instagram images.
Michelle explains: “We have asked people to send us photos of them enjoying themselves in the pub. We’ve had loads so I am saving them all to a USB stick and we will have them on a screen as a permanent reminder once we reopen.”
In the downtime the pub has also created a new penny bar area, using hundreds of 1p pieces, is overhauling its outside space and is even delivering dog food to a local dog rescue centre.
Michelle continues: “We have various WhatsApp groups and we are on the phone with customers constantly. The pub has lots of elderly customers and sometimes they just want a chat.”
For the record
Manchester licensee Simon Delaney has been engaging his customers with regular performances on Facebook.
While the pub he runs with wife Rachel, The Firbank, is closed, he has been letting people into their home, virtually speaking.
Every weeknight at 6pm the former DJ takes to the social media platform to, in his own words, “have a bit of a moan”. On Saturdays he gets on the decks for a three hour DJ set.
He explains: “Normally people just see the landlord as the bloke behind the bar so this has been a chance to let people see us in our homes and what we are like. It’s been great fun and on Saturdays we have had 200 to 300 people watching.”
“I’ve been getting comments from people I have never met before saying they can’t wait to come in the pub and meet so it has been a really fun and worthwhile thing to do.”
- How have you been keeping in touch with your community? Let us know with a tweet @BTSportBars