Design

Making your beer garden a winter wonderland

By Liam Coleman contact

- Last updated on GMT

Whiting & Hammond have installed gazebos from Crown Pavilions in their sites
Whiting & Hammond have installed gazebos from Crown Pavilions in their sites

Related tags: Public house

Since the smoking ban almost a decade ago, beer gardens often seem like an afterthought. The result is they are well populated in summer but, can be a depressing loss in trade in the winter months. Here are three pubs that have converted their outside areas and have seen an uptake in winter trade as a result.

The Cornish Arms

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Chef-Patron of Tavistock pub the Cornish Arms​, John Hooker, worked alongside the pub’s brewery to fund a complete refurb of the Devon pub’s outdoor area into what he terms the “garden room”. The result has been a 15% increase in winter trade.

“The beer garden was a bit of an afterthought at first, so we did just have gravel and benches,” Hooker admits.

Yet after a year in the venue, he met with the pub’s brewery, St Austell, and it agreed to partly fund the refurbishment of the entire area at the back of the pub.

“It’s a two-way street with the brewery,” Hooker says. “I’m the tenant but they believe in us and we believe in them. I told them we needed to counteract a new JD Wetherspoon pub that had opened down the road to maintain our sales, so we needed a better unique selling point to make people want to come and be in our pub whether it’s spring, summer, autumn or winter.”

With the total cost of refurbishing the outdoor area at £70,000, St Austell agreed to pay for the building work and the pub’s management team funded the fixtures and fittings.

Hooker sought out local builders and discussed his vision for the garden. Work started in autumn 2014.

The covered section of the garden had been a boarded-up skittle alley. The builders took the boards off of the alley, kept the same structure in place and whitewashed the walls to keep the original structure in place.

They then got Devon Slate flooring and ran that all the way through the entirety of the garden. From the back door all the way to the end of the garden, covering the previously gravelled area and the old skittle alley.

Finally, the alley was converted to have a heated bench area, three booths and a snug, which includes a log fire.

The new garden was opened in spring 2015 and, with 60 to 70 covers added from the outdoor area, the team saw a 15% increase in winter trade.

“When all the candles are lit, the fire is lit and the blankets are out at night, people will visit us regularly throughout the winter months. In fact, it’s heaving in the garden especially at Christmas,” Hooker says.

“You often have a vision and you don’t know how it’s going to work until it’s done, but this has by far exceeded our expectations on how great it looks and how great it works.”

Whiting & Hammond

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South-east based pub group, Whiting & Hammond, has started installing gazebo huts from Crown Pavilions across its estate of eight sites.

The huts, which have sides that roll down as well as blankets and heating inside, are installed by hotels, pub companies and restaurants across the country.

“They are a fantastic design and our sites have lovely big gardens that, with the huts, can be used all year round,” Whiting & Hammond’s managing director Brian Keeley-Whiting says when asked why the company opted for the gazebos.

The company first installed the huts at its site in Chiddingstone Causeway, the Little Brown Jug. After the success at the Kent site, it has since rolled out the gazebos at all the new sites it acquires. The result is that it is now in four of Whiting & Hammond’s eight venues. “I would love them at all the sites one day,” Keeley-Whiting says.

Each individual hut has not come cheap to Whiting & Hammond, as each one has cost £6,000, but the pubco is getting plenty of business from the huts, meaning that they seem to be paying for themselves. Customers have proven themselves to be perfectly willing to pay £30 to hire the huts, which come with their own butler for the duration of the time that they are hired for.

Ultimately, Whiting & Hammond is seeing a boost in winter trade at all the sites it has installed the huts at. “They are always booked out at Christmas time and prove to be quite cosy,” Keeley-Whiting says.

People’s Park Tavern

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The back of People’s Park Tavern in Hackney, east London, used to be a car park. It is now a pub garden that doubles the number of covers the venue has.

Although the beer garden is currently used more in winter than your typical pub garden, because there are covered booths with heaters built into them, there is still a substantial difference in trade between a sunny day in summer and the cold rainy depths of winter.

The team is aiming to change that now. “We are starting work to cover almost the entirety of the outdoor area for this winter,” the pub’s manager, Justin Hutton, says.

The pub has been able to source a selection of large tipis that it is now looking to cover the garden with. On top of this, it is looking to heat the whole area to truly “make it an extension of the pub this winter,” Hutton says.

Costs for converting the garden are being covered by both Laine’s London, which owns this venue as well as 10 others in the capital, and other commercial partners for the venue.

Off the back of this conversion, Hutton is hoping that him and his team are set for an increase in winter trading and thus less of a drop-off in business compared to the summer months.

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