Pub trade defiant despite disaster

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Greene king, Flood, Water

Ewan Turney and Joe Lutrario visited the flood-stricken crisis zone to witness first hand the carnage left in the wake of the worst natural disaster...

Ewan Turney and Joe Lutrario visited the flood-stricken crisis zone to witness first hand the carnage left in the wake of the worst natural disaster to hit Britain in 60 years

Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

Licensee Gerry Boazman became a flood celebrity when he refused to be airlifted from his free-of-tie White Bear pub, preferring instead to take his chances on the roof for three days to take care of his arthritic 14-year-old border collie dog.

The pub was submerged by four feet of water. "We can't save anything - it's all ruined," he said. "A bottle fridge, full of stock ripped through a locked door, such was the force of the flood. It will take 10 men to lift it back up. It's unbelievable"

Fortunately Boazman, renewed his insurance six weeks ago and double checked that the policy did cover him for flood damage.

Amazingly the pub opened up last Wednesday, serving free drinks to regulars and emergency services who dared to wade through the foot of water still covering the pub floor.

"I could be miserable but what's the point. It was quite bad for a while - I couldn't find the Magners! This is the famous White Bear and we will never go under."

Wadworth tenant Ian Phillips, of the Berkley Arms, like so many other licensees, suffered from a flooded cellar when the waters came on Friday evening. "We tried to pump out the water but there was just too much - approximately 125,000 litres. It is like a swimming pool. We've had no phone, no water, no power."

Phillips reserved special praise for Wadworth. "They've been filling empty nine-gallon barrels with water at the brewery and dropping them off. It's quite ironic because it was supposed to be the Tewkesbury Water Festival last weekend."

The garden and cellar at Spirit Group's Ye Olde Black Bear was submerged by flood waters. Manager Paul Wallis gave shelter to about 40 people and had been giving away free food and drink until he ran out and had to shut. "Everything needs disinfecting because the flood water contained sewage," he said.

Although it escaped actual flood damage, the Bell had to close because there was no running water. "We would usually take about £10,000 to £12,000 a week at this time with the accommodation," said Greene King manager Keith Travers.

The company has organised portaloos and plastic glasses to allow the bar to open.

Evesham, Worcestershire

The mayor of Evesham, Alan Booth, is also a Punch lessee at the Angel Vaults pub. The area was hit by a similar flood in 1998. "Last time we had to close for six months," he said. "So, it might be that long again."

Booth also decided to stay at his residence upstairs to guard against any looters. "Getting dried out is the biggest challenge. You can't get the dehumidifiers in until the plaster is knocked off. The water went up over four feet high and the plaster has to be taken off up to 18 inches above the waterline, so they may as well take the whole lot off.

"We will find out what happens with the rent, but I told Punch they are not going to get anything until I am open again. It's not my fault I can't trade.

"The first person that contacted me from Punch was the accounts department asking me why I had stopped my direct debit."

His wife, Carolyn, added: "I think the cellar is collapsing."

The Fish & Anchor in nearby Offenham has managed to get part of its bar operation open, but it could be months before it is fully operational. "It's damage limitation," said Oxford Inns & Hotels lessee Steve Brittain. "If we shut for four weeks, we would lose all our customers. It's survival - the Dunkirk spirit."

A full building survey needs to be undertaken at the pub as further damage was done by the down force of the RAF Sea King helicopter which airlifted staff and guests from the roof.

Brittain and his son, Luke, are livid that more was not done to prevent flooding. "This happened nine years ago and they promised us it could not happen for another 200 years," said Brittain. "It's an absolute joke."

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Cox's Yard sits bang on the river Avon in an ideal location sandwiched between the main road and a foot-

path into the popular tourist town. It was hit hard by the flooding.

"It was like something from a Spielberg film," said owner Simon Vetch. "It was one of those things you will always remember in life."

Cox's Yard is part of an entertainment complex that also contains a café, cinema and theatre. "If it's not going to be put right by August then it may as well not be put right until next March. We would normally do 800 covers a day in the summer. We would expect to make 30% of our annual profit this month.

"Nothing was saved and the smell left is awful. You benefit from the river in so many ways, but this is the downside."

Across the road, work has already begun at the Greene King managed house, the Pen & Parchment, with floors being ripped up.

"I don't think we will open for six weeks," said manager Simon Gibson. "Greene King has given us a lot of support and sent contractors out very quickly.

"I heard a noise at about 7am on Saturday morning and I thought we were being robbed. I ran downstairs to find the empty barrels clunking around in the yard.

"The flood was incredibly destructive. We had five full chest freezers lifted up and thrown about. It's awful timing coming at the height of the tourist season. It's the smell of the flood that is the worst thing."

The Whitbread owned Red Lion is already back on its feet thanks to some swift work from the company. "The staff housing has been hit and I had to make one of my staff homeless to the council," said manager Adam Sowerby.

Botley, Oxfordshire

The George in Botley faces a long road to recovery after three feet of water filled the pub. Greene King tenant Martin Ash had just completed a £7,000 redecoration, but, worse than that, he has no insurance.

"We can't get insurance, end of story," he said. "There have been too many claims here for flood damage in the past, so we are like a red alert for insurers. We can't even get loss of earnings insurance if it is flood related. We have been here 14 months and thrown all our profits into making this a success. Now, I don't know where to turn for help."

Ash's regulars have pledged £100 each to help him - so far 17 have coughed up.

"We would usually take £6,500 a week in summer."

Despite the damage done, he hopes to open the roof terrace bar with some bottle fridges this week.

In nearby Abingdon, the Whitbread-owned Ock Mill and Greene King managed White Horse pubs closed following damage to carpets and flooring.

Don't forget the trade heroes

Ewan Turney

Cellar? Condemned. Kitchen? Condemned. Stock? Condemned. Furniture? Condemned. Licensee - condemned? Not a chance.

Licensees took one look at the flood water, surveyed the damage done, shook their heads, stroked their chins and rolled up their sleeves. They have put their own financial hardship behind them to do whatever they can to uphold their role at the heart of the community.

We were regaled with stories of free mixed grills and Champagne - there was no drinking water - being served up to locals and emergency workers, and shelter being offered to all.

We, ourselves, were treated to a free pint of cider, standing knee deep in water at the White Bear in Tewkesbury. Licensee Gerry Boazman joked that the biggest disappointment of all was that his live act didn't turn up on Sunday. Nothing in his pub is salvageable and yet there he was entertaining the locals and firemen who had waded in.

It will be a long road to recovery for some. Greene King tenant Martin Ash at the George in Botley, Oxfordshire, has no insurance for flood damage or loss of earnings. He could be sulking. Instead, he shrugged his shoulders and said he will survive. Such was his conviction I believed him, despite the kitchen equipment floating by.

The attitude and spirit was incredible. But we must not forget these licensees. Long after the wa

Related topics: Other operators

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more