Make your bonfire night go with a bang!

Related tags Fireworks Guy fawkes night

Bonfire night is fast approaching bringing with it an opportunity to draw in new customers. Phil Mellows looks at how to put on a stunning showThere...

Bonfire night is fast approaching bringing with it an opportunity to draw in new customers. Phil Mellows looks at how to put on a stunning show

There are some occasions when bigger really is better. Take fireworks. The millennium celebrations were a watershed for organised firework displays in this country. Millions of people discovered a much more impressive spectacle than the usual roman candle, three sparklers and a rocket that are little more than a damp puff of smoke in the back garden.

In theory, this gives pubs a great opportunity to take advantage of November 5. You can target the family market, put on a barbecue and other entertainments, make your pub the centre of the community and really create some fireworks in the till.

A firework display is not an event you can rush into, however. Display fireworks are rather bigger and more dangerous than the sort you usually buy from the local newsagent. The British Standard for fireworks (BS 7114) defines four types:

  • Category one: Indoor fireworks
  • Category two: Garden fireworks
  • Category three: Display fireworks. For use in open areas
  • Category four: For use by professionals only

If you call in professionals, who will need to demonstrate to firework suppliers they have the necessary insurance cover, you will have access to a range of category four fireworks. They are usually imported and include shells and mines, a bit like giant rockets fired from a mortar tube, cakes, which are a mixture of small shells packed together in one big firework, and other large scale effects.

As long as you have the space, however, and take proper responsibility for the safety of your customers, you can still run an effective display yourself, based on category three fireworks. Safety is, of course, your paramount consideration. If anything, there is even more to think about when you are running a pub.

Earlier this year a publican was fined £2,000 after two spectators were injured by a firework which accidentally flew into the crowd. The court decided he had failed to provide an adequate safety zone and omitted to ask advice from the Health and Safety Executive or the local council.

A couple of years ago, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) ran a campaign headed "alcohol and fireworks don't mix". Certainly you, or anyone helping with the show, should not drink as you need to keep your wits about you.

As well as the familiar firework code, the DTI gives the following advice on organising public displays:

  • Plan ahead. Put a member of staff in charge of all the safety measures and divide up clear responsibilities. Check that you are insured to cover any firework-related injuries to those present at the display
  • Fireworks not marked with "Complies with BS7114 Part 2 1988" are suitable for use only by professionals
  • Tell the local council and the fire brigade what you are doing well in advance. They may want to check out the site and might give you some useful advice
  • You should allow a space of at least 50 metres by 20 metres for your firing area. Beyond this you will need a dropping zone for spent fireworks of 100 metres by 50 metres in the downwind direction - and remember the wind can change. In very windy weather, you should consider putting off the display altogether, however disappointing that may be
  • Spectators should be kept back on the opposite side from the dropping zone at least 25 metres from the firing zone
  • The site should be free from obstructions and well away from any building, trees and hazards like overhead cables
  • Make sure the site is well lit - especially if you are having a barbecue which can be another hazard in the dark. Make sure you can cater properly for disabled spectators. Watch out for any animals likely to be nearby
  • Car parking should be well away from your display area and dropping zone and upwind of the display
  • Arrange for stewards to be responsible for crowd control - at least one steward for every 250 spectators. They should be easy to identify, perhaps with fluorescent bibs or jackets
  • If spectators encroach on the display area, stop the show immediately
  • Do not allow spectators to enter the site with their own fireworks - even sparklers. Make sure there are signs explaining this at all entrances
  • Have as few people as possible actually involved with the fireworks. If possible put someone in charge who has had previous experience
  • Use safety lighters, such as a slow match, or a "portfire" often supplied with the fireworks. Never use matches or lighters
  • Bonfires need a lot of organising and can be a hazard. Many displays are a great success without one.

Comprehensive guides on organising firework displays are on sale from good booksellers or direct from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 6FS, tel: 01787 881165 or fax: 01787 313995.

Families make sales rocket

For Mike Warwick, deputy operations director of tenanted pub giant Pubmaster, events like bonfire night can not only pull in more people on the day but create a longer term uplift in custom by appealing to a more diverse clientele. As far as fireworks are concerned that means families.

"Licensees should consider tailoring their food to the event, backed up by relevant promotions and themed competitions," he said.

Pubmaster will offer its tenants support in the way of promotions and publicity and its regional managers are available to give additional advice to licensees on such matters as sensible security measures, vital when young children and fireworks are involved.

The Queen's Head at Water Oakley, Berkshire, is attempting to appeal to a wider, family-based market by holding a bonfire night party.

"We've just taken the tenancy of the pub and wanted to hold an event that would bring together our whole community," said licensee Dion Hales. "Bonfire night was the obvious time to do this. We hope to get a lot of families down as we are supporting the local school."

As well as the fireworks display, the pub is planning to offer drinks promotions, hamburgers and hot dogs.

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