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Project Reopen has been a success, say Shropshire pub firms

By John Corser | Shrewsbury | Business | Published:

A week on from the great reawakening of pubs, breweries have declared the exercise a success.

Richard Lane enjoys a draught pint at the Fox in Shipley

West Midlands-based Marston’s opened nearly 1,200 of its pubs last weekend and will be reopening more over the next two weeks.

Marston’s spokesman Jeremy Eaton said: “We were encouraged by the number of people keen to get back to their local. Customers were able to enjoy a pint of their favourite cask beer, including local favourite Banks’s, for the first time in three months as the breweries ramped up production and delivered to its pubs in time for last week’s re-opening.

“Over the coming days and weeks we will also be re-opening pubs in Scotland on Wednesday and Wales on August 3 for the first time since the lockdown in March.”

Vicky Colclough, brand director of Market Drayton-based Joules Brewery, said: “We have worked hard to ensure our pubs are safe and compliant whilst also having the warmth and friendliness that we have all missed from the pub experience, and of course the beer.

“We asked our customers to ‘work with us to make this work’ and they did, we have received great feedback from our customers and landlords reporting that trade over the weekend is steady.

“But the hard work doesn’t stop after one successful reopening weekend, we are focused on keeping our pubs safe for our customers.”

Lee Quester behind the bar at the Boathouse in Shrewsbury

Stonehouse Brewery, based near Oswestry, offered a home delivery service and take-out orders direct to customer’s cars during the lockdown.

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Director Shane Parr said: “We were not entitled to grant funding so were not making profits, but this did allow us to tick over financially.

“Around half our pubs we supply to have reopened and are gradually seeing things pick up.

“It is great to see pubs open again and buying beer. I do feel for some of the pubs and some breweries that will struggle, but we are quietly confident.

"We have got some of the summer left and a nice outdoor area. We will probably not make a profit this year, but it is good to see sales picking up.”

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There have been some problems with three pubs around the country having to rapidly close their doors again after customers were found to have visited while having coronavirus.

Black Country Ales had planned to reopen all 37 of its pubs on Saturday, but the fresh lockdown in Leicester meant it could not open two in the city.

Director Angus McMeeking said that all the rest had reopened successfully including The Anvil Inn, Shifnal and The Royal Oak in Shrewsbury.

He said “We are very pleased with the numbers that have turned out. Everyone has taken good notice of social distancing and the other new rules and regulations. We asked people to be sensible and it appears they have been.”

Are bars raising a glass or drowning their sorrows?

The pouring of pints, the hum of chatter and clinking of glasses finally returned to Shropshire’s pubs on Saturday, but has Project Reopen gone down as nicely as a cold beer in the afternoon sun?

‘Super Saturday’, as it was widely dubbed, saw drinkers flock to their locals and to town centres to sup their favourite tipples.

Staff worked their socks off to keep customers safe and help people get their heads around social distancing rules and other new protocols.

Rachael Childlow, Boathouse business director and general manager Demi Lesser

In Shrewsbury there were success stories, with The Wild Pig in Meole Brace experiencing an excitable atmosphere and regulars reconnecting with one another, while The Prince of Wales in Belle Vue also enjoyed a good first day back.

But it certainly wasn’t all perfect – The Crown in Coleham, Shrewsbury, has decided to stop serving under-21s due to some bad behaviour, and The Dog and Pheasant in Castlefields has opted to shut its doors earlier to avoid rowdy troublemakers.

Some pubs, like The Armoury in Victoria Quay, decided to remain closed and wait for a more gradual reopening.

One story of real hope is that of The Boathouse and The Lion and Pheasant, operated by Rachael Chidlow and Jim Littler.

Both venues took a battering in the February floods – the decking was lifted up and ruined at The Boathouse and the cellar filled with water at The Lion and Pheasant.

But each venue has returned to trade, with a new decking area finished at The Boathouse just in time for the grand reopening.

On a rainy afternoon at The Boathouse, which was still quite busy despite the weather, Rachael said she hoped that a positive start will encourage people to head back out to the pubs.

She said: “Our team are just so excited to be back. I think when the sun is shining and you’re here looking out on the river with the boat going past and the park in the background, it does feel like you’re on holiday.”

The Boathouse is one of several venues operating a ticketed pre-booking service.

John Corser

By John Corser
Business Reporter

Express & Star Business Editor at head office, Wolverhampton. Welcomes all news of companies and business organisations.

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