Wiltshire licensees have encouraged more pubs to be used as polling stations, after locals flocked to several pubs in the county to vote in the local and European elections on Thursday (22 May).
Mark Foster, of the Hare and Hounds in Corsham, said last week was the fifth time part of his pub has been used as a polling station and each time the outlet sees a rise in the number of reservations from new customers.
“It brings in a lot of people to your doorstep who have not used the pub for a while or ever. For those that are new to us, we engage in conversation and then they might make plans to come back. It’s free advertising,” he told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser.
He added that the council pays £125 to use the club room for the day, to cover loss of profit, and voting tends to occur in three waves, which helps sustain a steady flow of trade throughout the day.
“You have the people who live locally who already know the pub and come in to vote before work. Then there are those who come in during the day – they’re usually in advancing years or work from home – and they often stay around for a bite to eat or a coffee,” he said.
“The third group comes after work. After they’ve voted they might stay for a drink or two, or some arrange for their partners to meet them at the pub and they’ll stay for dinner.”
He added: “I would urge publicans to contact their council if they have a room that is under-utilised during the week that could be used as a polling station.”
'We definitely benefit'
Barman James Coles said the Poplars Inn in Wingfield started being used as a polling station four years ago after locals were concerned about people voting at the village school. He said the pub is split into three sections, and the smallest bar is used as a voting space, to limit disruption to customers.
“We definitely benefit from it, as it brings lots of people into the pub. Pubs can be poorly supported locally so it’s nice for us to see new faces in here,” he said.
“If pubs have the space and availability, and separate areas that can be cornered off without affecting customers, then it’s a good idea.”
Phil Seal, of the Red Lion in Heytesbury, said only the occasional voter will stay at the pub for a drink afterwards, but it’s convenient for the regular pub-users and “makes more sense” than using schools.
“It’s better to use pubs as they’re open late anyway. All we have to do is open the side door from 7am.”