#backtobusiness: Shrewsbury pub may not be open until Christmas

It is more than a month since the cellar of The Salopian Bar in Shrewsbury was consumed with foul-smelling, filthy water.

Ollie Parry in the cellar of the Salopian bar in Shrewsbury that was badly flooded
Ollie Parry in the cellar of the Salopian bar in Shrewsbury that was badly flooded

There is no sign of it reopening for a while yet, but there is a quiet determination that the business will not be beaten, despite frustrations, bureaucratic hurdles and the added complication of coronavirus.

It was on February 17 that owner Ollie Parry looked down the steps to find his cellar underwater, and he says it could be as late as Christmas before he is able to reopen.

"We're waiting for a professional clean-up, but they are not acting very quickly," he says wearily.

"We're waiting for a payment from my comprehensive insurance cover, but they are taking their time, and basically I have run out of money.

"When they did come round three weeks ago, I was hoping we would be open by April or May, but they said it would be six months, so that took us to August. Now coronavirus has come along, and I suspect that is going to add to the delay so it could be September or October. Who knows? It could be Christmas before we are ready to reopen."

Storm Dennis truly was a menace for the people of Shrewsbury, not least by the way it took the town by surprise.

The previous week, Storm Ciara wrought a little mayhem, but Shrewsbury was relatively unscathed. So when Dennis whistled his way through the Midlands on February 15 and 16, people were expecting more of the same. They were in for a rude awakening.

Ollie Parry in the Salopian bar in Shrewsbury

People woke up on Monday, February 17, to find vast swathes of the town submerged. All road access to the town centre was cut off, although rail services were not affected. The following day Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski returned to survey the damage, and was horrified by the sight that greeted him.

Not only was the road where he lived submerged, but he faced the tricky situation of finding whether or not his car had fallen victim to the flooding.

Standing on the bridge over the River Severn at Frankwell, the MP likened the scene to the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. Chester Street was completely underwater, forcing the evacuation of dozens of elderly people in a sheltered accommodation unit. Roushill was also flooded, with the Lunt's Pharmacy suffering particularly badly, and a van which had been left at Frankwell car park by some unfortunate owner was now up to its windows in water.

Ollie, who has kept the award-winning pub in Smithfield Street for 14 years, says in reality he is one of the lucky ones.

Many shops in Shrewsbury were flooded and left with big repair bills

"In the long run I will be all right, because I will get my money, but it's a time-consuming job," he says.

"I'm covered for the costs of all the time we are closed, but I doubt if any of the pubs that are closing because of coronavirus will get anything. I bet if you look in the small print of the insurance policy it won't cover pandemics."

Ollie says many of his regular customers have been in touch.

"I hear off them every day, I get text messages and phone calls from them, they tell me the pubs they are drinking in, most of them drink in pubs close to The Salopian, and I go along to join them for a beer or a coffee," he says.

"So I'm still able to keep in touch with them, I'm pretty sure they will all come back, as I know them all anyway, but I think it's going to be a long process.

"The first 10 years were hard because I didn't have any customers, and I worked very hard to build up a customer base, and then a few years ago I was hit with a 400 per cent rise in business rates. Then it was the flooding, and now its coronavirus. It's hard work being a pub landlord."

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