Fighting back after flooding

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Related tags: Pub, Flood

Kelly Wright, from the Hawbridge in Tirley, Gloucestershire experienced every licensee's worst nightmare when she had to battle rising waters twice...

Kelly Wright, from the Hawbridge in Tirley, Gloucestershire experienced every licensee's worst nightmare when she had to battle rising waters twice within six months. In July 2007, the banks of the River Severn burst leaving waters to ravage the historic inn and Kelly, who was eight months pregnant, had to be rescued.

"Everything happened so quickly. We live upstairs and I had to get out before the water got too deep. There was already five foot of water in the pub and I'm only five foot three."

After the ordeal, Kelly's son Mason was born a week later. During this time her partner, Ian Baike, had to guard the building as it could not be locked due to water damage. The pub was then closed for five months while a £350,000 refurbishment was completed.

"We were closed during the summer, which is our busiest time of the year. And we got into more debt because we had no income during those months. Luckily, we had a newborn baby to take our mind off things," said Kelly.

But disaster struck again in January last year, when floods returned to plague the Hawbridge after it had been open for only six weeks.

This time the waters did not affect the bar but breached the cellar and ruined the beer garden which had just had a revamp.

"About 75 per cent of the work we had done in the garden was destroyed. And we had to shut the pub again for another four weeks."

As the garden was not insured, Kelly and Ian were forced to plough £10,000 of their own income into repairing damages.

The couple have taken steps to make the pub more flood resistant by replacing the carpet with stone floors, changing the wooden bar into a metal one and putting in brick walls.

Kelly, however, still lives in constant fear of floods and feels frustrated by their plight. Despite pleas to the environment agency, she says they have not been offered any help.

"Not enough is done to help people in our situation, even though there are a lot of pubs beside rivers. I'm terrified of it happening again because if we don't have a good summer this year we might not be here at the end of it."

For Amanda Greene, licensee of the Canterbury in Tewkesbury, the flooding of her pub in July 2007 came as a shock as it is located a mile away from the nearest river. But a combination of torrential rain and poor drainage left the Canterbury three feet deep in water and the car park submerged.

As the interior of pub was ruined, all the fittings had to be ripped out and replaced in the £280,000 refurbishment.

But there was more trouble in store for Amanda when it came to dealing with the cost of the damages. "Greene King paid for the restoration of the building structure. And the insurance company took care of most of the fixtures and fittings. But I ended up with only about 80 per cent of what the interior was insured for and then discovered it was probably under insured when we took out the policy," she said.

As a result, Amanda had to invest £20,000 of her own money in rebuilding the business.

While the pub was closed for 18 weeks, she was also forced to sell her car and personal possessions in order to generate income.

When the Canterbury reopened she discovered the closure had cost her some valuable customers.

She adds that while repairs have been made to the flawed drains, she doesn't think it will be enough to stave off any freakish flooding in the future.

"I'm hoping that it was a one-off. But then again, the climate is changing and getting wetter. I know if it happens again, I will be driving away with a packed suitcase."

On July 21 2007, trading at the Rose Revived in Newbridge, Oxfordshire came to a standstill when water spilled over from the River Thames while the pub was serving Sunday lunch to more than 100 customers. "I kept looking at the river as it was rising and telling myself that it would not come into the pub. But it did and it was devastating" said co-licensee Vicky Leney.

Inside, water rose to a foot and a half destroying flooring, panelling and carpets. The pub was shut for 10 weeks, losing all of its summer trade - an average of £25,000 a week.

Vicky says a gruelling wait lay in store as the refurbishment was stalled until the pub dried out. The gutted property then had to be professionally cleaned, redecorated and painted.

During the closure, staff were sent to other Greene King pubs around the country which took its toll on morale. "We had built up a great team. We got to know each other well and then suddenly they were all sent away."

According to Vicky, the lowest point came during the glorious weather of the August bank holiday weekend. "Our car park was full and people were sitting with packed lunches in the garden. We kept thinking we would be making so much if were open right now. "

But in September, staff returned to the pub and a party was held to celebrate the reopening of the aptly named Rose Revived.

Since the floods trading has also held up, despite the recession.

But Vicky says the fear of flooding looms constantly and is an ever present threat to many in the trade. "Pubs are losing out because so many keep getting flooded. As a result they are really struggling, especially at the moment."

Related topics: Other operators

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