After the floods

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Related tags: Kelham island tavern, Flood, Insurance

The recent floods have left hundreds of pubs devastated but help is at hand. Noli Dinkovski sets out a step-by-step guide to get your pub up and...

The recent floods have left hundreds of pubs devastated but help is at hand. Noli Dinkovski sets out a step-by-step guide to get your pub up and running as soon as possible.

1. Don't panic

The Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations (FLVA) is available to give guidance to any of its flood-stricken members, and president Shaun Rennison is better-placed than most. As licensee of the Halsham Arms, situated in the village of Halsham 10 miles west of Hull, Rennison's pub suffered extensive flood damage and has yet to reopen.

Rennison advises that in the event of disaster, you should keep a cool head. "Don't panic, be calm, act in a logistical way and you'll get through it," he says. "The first big thing to do is prepare a checklist, and work through it as quickly and methodically as possible."

2. Get the premises dry

After the river Don burst its banks in Sheffield city centre at the end of June, licensee Trevor Wraith didn't waste any time in removing what he could from his freehouse, the Kelham Island Tavern.

"The most pressing thing is to strip out and remove anything that is condemned," Wraith says. "Get it out straightaway to enable the place to start drying out."

Rennison advises that damaged plaster should be stripped to at least 18 inches above the water-line, as damp can creep up walls. "Most insurance companies see that as perfectly acceptable," he says. "The next step of course is to get a contractor in to carry on the drying out procedure with dehumidifiers."

3. Be aware of health risks

The British Damage Management Association (BDMA) advises caution if you take it upon yourself to clean the premises. Flood water is often contaminated and, may include elements that can cause a range of illnesses, so personal hygiene, including washing hands and covering cuts or scratches, is very important. Within a few days mould can form due to the damp environment, and this can affect the throat, nasal passages and lungs.

"In trade areas, clearly there is a duty of care to make sure that everything is thoroughly sanitised and I would recommend using a specialist contractor," says Rennison. "Your insurance company will probably be keen to see the sanitation certificate as well."

Specialist contractors will be able to issue a sanitation certificate - which is also required before any cellar repairs can be undertaken.

4. Prepare for the loss adjuster

Making a list of the ruined contents will

save valuable time when the loss adjuster

arrives. The BDMA also advises taking pictures and video of the property and any damaged possessions.

Most pubs will have business interruption insurance, which usually covers flooding, but the loss adjuster will be keen to see records of historical takings. "They will want to look at the takings up to the point when the flooding occurred and, if possible, takings for the same period in the previous year," says Rennison. "From that information they will work out the gross profit that has been lost, to place what they call a reserve figure - a judgement on how much the claim is likely to cost."

5. Look after your staff

For any pub closed for a lengthy period of time, there is always the threat of staff leaving. To prevent this, Wraith has tried to give his staff alternative work in the barren weeks since the flood. "I offered some of them painting jobs, as I'd rather keep paying them than find that I've got to hire a whole new team before reopening," he says. "Some have declined which is fine. If they are not keen on it they probably wouldn't do a great job anyway."

6. Seek financial assistance

Lease or tenancy agreements will set out who is responsible for repairs, but flooded pubs will have lost thousands of pounds worth of stock and will have to fork out to cover refurbishment costs before receiving any insurance payout. In Yorkshire, four weeks after the floods, many pubs are still waiting for their insurance claims to be processed.

In the case of the Kelham Island Tavern, Wraith says he has just paid £6,000 for a new floor and there are some "hefty bills" coming in. "Luckily we had a healthy bank balance prior to the flood" he says. "We should be OK, but if we were struggling we certainly would be asking to defer some of our payments."

The Licensed Trade Charity is offering help with regular monthly bills or paying essential household items if you weren't covered by insurance. Contact the LTC on 01344 884440.

The Federation of Small Businesses has a fund of £500,000 for interest-free short-term loans to members.

Contact the FSB on 01253 336000.

7. Announce your return

Once you reopen you are almost there, but not quite. Feedback from flood-affected pubs that have reopened in the Sheffield area is that trade has not yet returned to previous levels. That is a situation Wraith was keen to avoid: "We reopened last Friday and I have since been ringing local newspapers and radio stations to ask them to spread the word. You have to get the message out quickly, otherwise your customers will presume you're still closed."

Preparing for the worst

Pubs that escaped the floods may not in future. Insurance firm Towergate Risk Solutions advises the following precautions to minimise the impact floodwater can have on your business:

l Check if you are at risk: You can find out by entering your postcode into the Environment Agency's flood map online tool. The Agency also operates a telephone early-warning service - for more information call the Floodline on 0845 988 1188.

l Prepare a flood plan: Identify all utility shut-off points and protect them against disruption.

l Communicate with staff: Ensure all staff understand the procedures to be followed.

l Consider a business interruption policy: This will insure you against loss of profit and higher overheads caused by loss of equipment or facilities. The right level and mix of policy is essential.

l Standard insurance: It is important that premises are insured for the full rebuilding cost, otherwise you will only be able to claim the cost of what is insured, regardless of the damage.

l Replacement or indemnity insurance: Indemnity cover deducts the cost of wear and tear when settling a claim. Replacement as new is more expensive, but may be a better option.

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