Work is at last underway at the Salopian in Smithfield Road to repair the damage caused by the floods in February, and landlord Ollie Parry hopes to be ready to reopen early in the new year.
But he has warned the added pressure of the coronavirus pandemic, and resulting drop in customers the pub can accommodate with social distancing, would see the business collapse within three months.
Faced with the prospect of losing his livelihood and seeing the award-winning pub closed for good, Mr Parry was thrown a potential lifeline when Lunts Pharmacy relocated to the Tannery at the end of September, leaving its former shop and warehouse in Roushill empty.
Mr Parry has now applied to Shropshire Council for change of use of the two buildings in order to create an above-ground storage area to replace the flood-prone pub cellar, and an ‘indoor beer garden’ to be able to accommodate enough punters to keep the business going.
In a letter to the council supporting his application, Mr Parry said the only insurance company willing insure the pub against floods had now withdrawn its cover, after 43 flooding episodes in 15 years.
He said: “This makes the Salopian’s trading on very dodgy legs, at any day a flood could close us for good.
“The only option to us, is to move the cellar to ground level. But unfortunately, there is no spare room in the pub itself to do that.”
He said the now vacant pharmacy building was “the only real option”. No physical work would be required, due to the electrics in the pharmacy already being raised above ground level, like those in the pub, due to the flood threat.
Coolers and brewery equipment would likewise be raised 1.5 metres off the ground.
Turning to the current Covid-safe requirements for hospitality businesses, Mr Parry said the pub, which has a usual capacity of 100, would only be able to accommodate 42 people.
He said: “We have done the sums, and we would go bust within three months of reopening if our turnover drops to 40 to 50 per cent.”
But Mr Parry said the the now vacant warehouse at 29 Roushill, previously let by the pharmacy, could provide the answer.
He said: “Back in 2008, this building was empty and we rented it for a bank holiday weekend and put on a cider festival in there.
“At one point we had 450 people comfortably in there with plenty of space for another few hundred more.
“It is a massive space, which even with social distancing in place, would have a capacity of 200, meaning with the Salopian combined, that would create a capacity of 242.
“We have done cashflow and profit and loss forecasts, and with this increased capacity, the Salopian would not only survive, but go on and prosper for many years.”
To create the indoor “secret beer garden”, an internal door would be created between the pub and the warehouse, along with a disabled access ramp.
There would be no other work to the building other than repairs and maintenance, and Mr Parry said his proposal would prevent the two buildings from lying empty and falling into disrepair.
The change of use application will now be decided by Shropshire Council.