The Dunkirk spirit helped pubs in the wake of floods - and poker is good news says David Elliott
The recent widespread flooding in many areas of Britain is an absolute tragedy for those involved.
So many homes have been devastated, livelihoods damaged, crops destroyed... but a vital sense of community spirit still remains, even in these challenging times.
I know that a number of readers will have been affected in their capacity as a staff member, customer or licensee. According to reports, a large number of pubs have been flooded - and I would like to echo the comments of Tony Payne, chief executive of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers' Associations, that it is important the industry helps those affected by offering every assistance to ensure pubs reopen as quickly as possible. When I visited several flooded Greene King pubs last week I felt heartened by the display of "Dunkirk spirit " I witnessed.
Two of our pubs have played a critical role: one delivered fresh water to local residents, and another gave locals refuge by allowing them to sleep on sofas and feeding them while their food stocks lasted. Staff devised a rota and took turns to stay at the pub over five days to make sure those in need were cared for.
Many pubs have been caught up in this disaster: mostly we've seen cellars flooded or cooling systems damaged by intermittent electrical supplies - or the power has failed altogether - and livelihoods of many licensees will be interrupted for weeks - and possibly months - to come.
The recent research we conducted at Greene King, when we spoke to more than 5,000 people on 1 July, confirms the pub is still at the heart of the British community, with 84% saying they are proud of the Great British pub.
I think the recent reactions of pub operators to the catastrophe of the floods will remain a positive memory for many communities for a long time to come.
We can only hope that insurers, loss adjusters and building contractors are going to be able to cope with the massive increase in claims that they are bound to experience and that none of them decides to take advantage of this tragedy in an unscrupulous manner by producing over-inflated prices and premiums in the future.
On a much more positive note, we can enjoy a game of poker in our local pub at long last without the threat of totally unnecessary legal recriminations. From 1 September, licensees will be allowed to promote poker in their pubs legally without the need to apply for permission first.
Have we actually seen the very first piece of reduction in red tape for the pub?
I think so.
Some months ago, I pointed out the need to allow poker in pubs to give customers more reason to visit.
This is a great result and one that I think will prove to be a crucial turning-point for many pubs.