How to prepare your pub for extreme weather conditions

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Whatever the weather: Andrews Hields of Britain's highest pub, the Tan Hill Inn, tells The Morning Advertiser how his remote pub stays open whatever the weather
Whatever the weather: Andrews Hields of Britain's highest pub, the Tan Hill Inn, tells The Morning Advertiser how his remote pub stays open whatever the weather
Britons are renowned for talking about the weather but publicans across the country need to do more than talk. They need an action plan and they need it in place before the weather strikes

Preparing for extreme weather

Karen Moody Wood, property support manager at Star Pubs & Bars offers hints and tips on how to prepare your pub for extreme weather:

General

  • Regularly check and sign up for weather warning alerts. The Met office offer a weather warning email alert service for specific regions via their weather forecast app
  • Be prepared – have a plan in the event of any extreme weather conditions, to include; preparation, during the event and the potential aftermath
  • Keep emergency numbers handy in your mobile phone and keep your phone with you
  • If you have sufficient warning – increase your orders to ensure you have enough food and drink to see you through the the extreme weather and potential aftermath
  • Pubs are the heart of the community and if roads are cut off or there are power cuts in the area due to severe weather the community may turn to their local pub for help. If your pub is unaffected you may need to provide shelter to those in need. Stock up on provisions, food, drink, blankets, fuel
  • Don’t take unnecessary risks – put your safety first.

Wind

  • Move any loose furniture / equipment indoors
  • Ensure all windows are closed and secured
  • Ensure any outbuildings / garages are locked and secured
  • Ensure drains are clear so rainwater can drain away quickly
  • Don’t be tempted to go out into a storm, sit tight until it is safe to go out

Floods

  • Sign up for severe weather warning alerts and regularly check the weather forecast via a smart phone app.
  • If the pub is near to a river sign up to the National Rivers Authority for flood alerts
  • Be prepared by writing up a flood plan and keep emergency numbers handy
  • Have an evacuation plan prepared and carry out an evacuation drill so you are prepared for an unexpected flash flood
  • Move valuable or hazardous items from the potential flooding area.
  • Moving personal items to a higher floor or the roof space if necessary
  • Move any loose furniture / equipment indoors

Snow

  • Get a health check on your boilers, radiators and any other essential equipment before the cold weather starts
  • Be prepared for powercuts – torches, blankets and provisions.

Heat

  • Ensure Air conditioning units are serviced before the summer season
  • During heat waves open doors and windows to create a through draft to keep customers comfortable
  • Close any vertical blinds to an upward position to avoid hot and direct sunlight onto customers
  • Ensure umbrellas are operational on outdoor furniture and at the end of the day put them all up to avoid any metal furniture becoming too hot and potentially dangerous to use
  • Create shaded areas – if you have awnings extend them during hot days – this will help to shade windows too and keep temperatures down inside the building.

The past 12 months have seen ‘the Beast from the East’, a series of strong storms and the joint hottest summer ever recorded for the UK. 

With many pubs recently releasing trading statements basking in the summer’s heatwave, the perils of ‘the Beast’ and the flooding that marked the first few months of 2018 seem a
lifetime away for most.

March 2018 brought with it some of the most testing weather the UK has seen in years, with the Met Office regularly issuing dangerous weather warnings. With accelerated climate change likely bringing stronger storms with it, the weather that battered Britain in early 2018 may well become the norm. 

Discussing how pubs can survive extreme weather conditions, The Morning Advertiser ​spoke to Andrew Hields, who, along with Mike Kenney, took ownership of the highest pub in the UK, the Tan Hill Inn, which sits isolated at 1,732ft above sea level in the Yorkshire Dales.

Hields states that the pub’s remote location regularly leaves it at the mercy of the elements. “We have all extremities,” he says. “In city centres, you have a little bit of this and a little bit of that but genuinely day-by-day we will have the best or the worst of the best or the worst weather. There’s no in between.”

There’s a sense of inevitability discussing difficulties brought about by the downturn in conditions following a record-breaking summer. “We know from November through to probably April there’s a threat of snow – which is the biggest issue for us,” says Hields. “We can get properly cut off from the world.”

“We’re always open – when snow comes to Tan Hill, people see it as a challenge,” says Hields. “You’ll have all of the Land Rover and 4x4 clubs attempting to get up on the roads – they take a bit of pride that they’re the only kind of vehicle that can get to the Tan Hill. It becomes a destination venue more so than at any other time – you get up to Tan Hill, you get your pint, you get your pie and congratulations.”

Armour the building

Given the draw of visiting the Tan Hill Inn whatever the weather, it must undergo near constant, maintenance, according to Hields.

“Before we bought it, there was a slate roof on the old barn. In the last really big winds, the slate roofs came off. We’ve redone it and put a proper stone roof on. We’ve had to, over the past few years, really armour the building externally.

“We have a repointing schedule where we have to get certain sections repointed every two to three years to make sure that the driving rain doesn’t come through the wall – there’s rain hitting the side of the building at 100mph. 

“We have to get our generator maintained a lot more often than someone else would. We have two generators, including a standby generator because we’re completely off grid with no electricity nearby. We always have to keep a close eye on that.

“We have to make sure the maintenance is tip-top as well, otherwise it will just get destroyed.”

With customers ready, willing and apparently able to drop in for a pint in even the most extreme of conditions, it’s important that their experience of the Tan Hill Inn isn’t damaged by the elements. 

“We’ve put log burners in – we have the heating on pretty much all the time just to make sure it keeps warm,” says Hields. 

“We also have live-in staff. It’s not like, if the snow comes down none of the staff will be able to get there – there’s always a chef, there are always bar staff and there are always waiters.” 

Hields also points out that the Tan Hill has a flexible menu that can be streamlined in case of supply issues brought about by the weather. 

“We pretty much make sure that most of the menu is available but if, for example, a delivery hasn’t been able to come because of the snow then we do a limited menu, but it’s not often that actually happens because we’ve usually got the stock in.

“We’ve got a tractor with a snow plough and a Hagglund – like an all-terrain, Caterpillar-type vehicle – that we can use, and our pool car is a Land Rover Discovery. If we need to pick stock up that’s what we use and that should, in most cases, get us there.”

Hields advises: “Don’t go cheap – buy cheap, buy twice. It’s definitely down to workmanship, the quality of fixtures and fittings – that will see you through the weather, but also keeping a keen eye on it and checking it. 

“Proactively maintain your building – don’t reactively maintain it because it will cost a lot more, damage you and hurt somebody else. We proactively keep on top of that building and always have plenty of stock. 

“In other pubs that might be grid connected in a rural area they might not have a generator but they are subject to a lot more power cuts. If I were them I’d still have a back-up generator. 

“At Tan Hill, we have to log every piece of electrical equipment and have a schedule of when we can put certain things on – otherwise the generator will conk out. 

“If someone goes onto a generator when they do have a power cut they may also have to have that in place to say ‘we’re on generator, we can only turn this on and can’t run on full operation’. Pubs in flood risk areas probably have to get a lot more deeply involved in that kind of stuff.

“When something happens we ring the Highways Agency to make sure they can come along and help clear the road. We are very reliant on the council doing their bit when weather comes along – you’ve got to work with partners.”

Battling floods

The Environment Agency (EA) urges businesses to put together a flood plan that should include knowing who to contact in the event of a flood and how best to reach them. Moreover, business operators should decide where they will go in advance and create an easily accessible list of important contacts. 

Additionally, the EA states that it’s important to consider which items can be moved upstairs or to higher ground before the water starts rising, and that all members of staff know how to turn off gas, electricity and water supplies.

The EA also advises businesses to consider flood protection equipment, for example, plastic covers to seal air bricks and sandbags to repel floodwater – both of which can be provided by local authorities. 

The Muddiford Inn, in Barnstaple, north Devon, for example, was heavily affected by floods early in 2018. As a result, the operators have flood boards in place and sandbags at the ready and have fitted their fence on hinges to allow it to swing with the water flow.   

Know where you stand

Kevin Marsh, head of licensed leisure at Savills, advises: “Be clear on what your insurance does and doesn’t cover.  Business interruption such as customers or staff being unable to reach you due to bad weather may not qualify, while physical damage to property caused by the weather usually does. 

"Understand your obligations as part of the insurance requirements, for example you may be required to salt or grit the car park and clear access paths for health and safety reasons. 

“If you’re not insured for stock delivery failure then make sure you always have an ample supply of products with a long shelf life.  This includes heating fuel as well as food and drink.  Particularly for listed properties where insulation improvement works are limited, open fires are an important source of heat as well as ambience so you will need plenty of logs in storage. 

"The cost invested in opening up chimney breasts can pay dividends when colder weather arrives.  Likewise outdoor heaters can be relatively costly to run, but they can mean your outdoor space continues to be used by customers and therefore generates sales in Winter months as well as providing a more pleasant smoking solution.”

To find out more about pubs for sale, lease and tenancy visit our property site​.

Related topics: Property law, Health & safety

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