Call to support the community pubs which are diversifying to survive during the lockdown

Community owned pubs are bucking the national picture of closure during the lockdown by diversifying their services and helping those in need, new figures have revealed.

Sixty seven per cent* of community pubs surveyed have carried on trading during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to figures released today by national charity the Plunkett Foundation. The charity is urging people to support their local community pubs now, and when the restrictions are eventually lifted.

There are now 116 community pubs trading across the UK, with over half of those who responded to a survey continuing to operate in some way despite the forced closure of cafes, pubs and restaurants– with the exception of takeaway services – since March. The charity says that many have been laying on extra services specifically designed to help people in their locality receive the supplies they need during the lockdown.

The figure for community pubs alone contrasts with a UK-wide survey from the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) of its members in the wider pub industry which shows that of those who responded 28 per cent were able to offer food and drink takeaway, collection and deliveries, whilst 72 per cent** were not able to during lockdown.

Community pubs have been offering new support services – including prescriptions, food and produce deliveries, hot food deliveries and takeaways. In many cases community pubs have been building on their established reputations as local hubs by offering services to support the wellbeing of residents, with new innovations such as telephone helplines for those suffering from isolation.

Community pubs have also been supporting their tenants by providing reduced rents or rent holidays and keeping staff employed where possible, and furloughing them where not.

Hannah Barrett, Senior Project Manager at Plunkett, said: “We are urging people to support their local community pubs today, in whatever way they can – and to keep on supporting them when lockdown is lifted. Community pubs have been working hard to remain the beating heart of communities, offering services which have been much needed and greatly relied upon during the Covid-19 crisis.

Through their activities they are not only keeping communities in contact with each other and supplied with the products and services they need, they have also been keeping people employed during these extremely difficult times.

“These pubs have been leading the way and showing by example that community pubs are more than just pubs, they are diverse hubs of community involvement even at a time of social distancing. We have seen enterprising, innovative and evolving ideas across the country, keeping people and communities safely connected.

“Many of the community pubs are undertaking these activities with little financial return, and face similar concerns to their private counterparts.”

Tom Barton, Programme Manager at Power to Change, the independent trust that supports community businesses in England, added: “Community pubs are a lifeline for the communities they serve. We know that community owned pubs are so much more than just pubs – and their response throughout this crisis is a testament to that. The community pub sector has stood out for its resourcefulness and can-do approach to tackling the current situation. In some of these cases, it appears that local people have come to value their community pubs even more because of the amazing work they have been doing.”

Molly Davis, Head of Communications at the BII, said: “The BII represents a wide range of licensees all running very different venues. It has been heartening to hear the many stories of community support, fundraising and charitable efforts from all types of pubs during lockdown. Pubs are so much more than just a place to get a drink and we will continue to support our members and the wider hospitality sector to ensure we have pubs to go back to.”

The More than a Pub programme, run by Plunkett and funded by Power to Change, provides business development support to enable the community ownership of pubs in both rural and urban communities across England. To help trading pubs adjust their activities, due to the pandemic, small grants of up to £2,000 have been made available at short notice. Since the crisis began the programme has provided £43,000 worth of support in the way of grants, alongside specialist advice to help community pubs.

One such pub is the Antwerp Arms in Tottenham, north London. The pub had been serving real ale and food in Tottenham since the 1850s and has been in community ownership since 2015. In recent weeks the pub has been undertaking food collection; food redistribution; a delivery service and providing hot meals to 120 vulnerable people and keyworkers per week, across the diverse communities of Haringey, north London, who are affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Four in ten (40%) children in the borough live in households in poverty, similar to the typical London borough (38%) (Source: Trust for London, 2020).

Meanwhile, the George and Dragon in Hudswell, North Yorkshire, was forced to close at the beginning of the crisis and offered its tenants a rent holiday as long as this endured. The pub has continued to generate an income by expanding a small shop within the pub which has been supportingthe local community with a wide range of goods. Martin Booth of the Hudswell Community Pub Ltd said: “This enables our tenant to continue to generate some income, support his suppliers and help the village through the crisis by supplying a wide range of goods such that most people would never need to leave the village.”

The Pheasant in Neenton, Shropshire, closed on 20th March and began offering a takeaway and local delivery service for food the following day. During the lockdown the pub has been offering a “Meal of the Day”, “Essentials Boxes” of basic foods and has added “Celebration Boxes” for those celebrating birthdays or anniversaries and even “Sharing Platters” for two. The takeaway service brings in about 25% of normal revenue and provides people in the area access to quality food without having to brave the supermarket queues. The delivery service is a lifeline for people who are shielding or self-isolating.

*According to Plunkett’s survey of 66 community-owned pubs in England, Scotland and Wales, 44 remain open and serving their community.
**Figure from the BII’s Coronavirus & Reopening Report from June 2020.

ENDS

For more information contact:
Duncan Smith, Communications Manager, the Plunkett Foundation: 01993 810730 /
Duncan.smith@plunkett.co.uk or visit www.plunkett.co.uk/awards

Notes to Editors

The Plunkett Foundation

The Plunkett Foundation helps rural communities UK-wide to tackle the issues they face, through promoting and supporting community business. Community businesses are enterprises that are owned and run democratically by members of the community and others, on behalf of the community. They come in many forms, including shops, pubs, woodlands and anything which lends itself to community ownership. In addition to developing and safeguarding valuable assets and services, community businesses address a range of issues including isolation, loneliness, wellbeing, work and training.

More than a Pub

The More than a Pub programme provides business development support to enable the community ownership of pubs in both rural and urban communities across England. Funded by Power to Change and delivered by Plunkett Foundation, the second round of the programme builds upon the success of the first, which saw over 450 enquiries received from communities across England and saw 47 pubs supported into community control. Support and funding is available to the community pub sector until September 2020.

Power to Change

Power to Change is the independent trust that supports community businesses in England. Community businesses are locally rooted, community-led, trade for community benefit and make life better for local people. The sector has an income of £890m, and comprises 9,000 community businesses across England who employ 33,600 people. (Source: The Community Business Market in 2019)

From pubs to libraries; shops to bakeries; swimming pools to solar farms; community businesses are creating great products and services, providing employment and training and transforming lives. Power to Change received its endowment from the National Lottery Community Fund in 2015.

The Antwerp Arms, Tottenham, London

The Antwerp Arms became North London’s first Community Pub in 2015. A friendly real ale pub serving Tottenham since 1820. ‘The Annie’ is the oldest working pub in N17, and a stone’s throw from White Hart Lane stadium, home to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Spurs fans have been regulars ever since 1882. Taking advantage of 2011’s Localism Act, the Bruce Castle Village Association (BCVA) applied for the pub to be listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) when it was threatened with conversion to flats in 2013. This led to the community buying the pub via shares and a SIB Capital Assets grant in March 2015.

The Pheasant at Neenton, Shropshire

Closed for almost nine years, the keen desire among the people of Neenton to see the Pheasant Inn reopen to breathe life back into the village was the catalyst for the formation of Neenton Community Society (NCS). A charitable Community Benefit Society dedicated to the regeneration of the local rural area, the Society purchased the pub, then derelict, just before Christmas 2013. The pub is now a social and economic hub: a place where villagers can meet and socialise, celebrate and commiserate, and well as providing employment and training for local young people, helping them develop their life skills.

The George and Dragon, Hudswell, North Yorkshire

Following the closure in 2008 of Hudswell’s only pub, The George and Dragon, Hudswell Community Pub Ltd was established, in early December 2009, as an Industrial and Provident Society, (an IPS Cooperative) for the benefit of the community. The first call for investors and the associated prospectus was launched later that month. By February 2010, 140 people had responded and the initial target of £220,000 of investment was achieved and HCP completed the purchase of the George and Dragon pub. The pub underwent extensive renovations to modernise before re-opening in June 2010. The George & Dragon is at the centre of the local community, offering a little local shop, library, community allotments and free internet access. It was Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Yorkshire Pub of the Year in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2019 and the 2016 CAMRA National Pub of the Year.