Shutdown is ‘a strange new experience for us all’

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Emotional night: operator Kevin Shepherdson has described last orders at his pub, the Old Horse
Emotional night: operator Kevin Shepherdson has described last orders at his pub, the Old Horse

Related tags: coronavirus

Operator Kevin Shepherdson is usually the one asking customers how they are doing, however, in this uncertain time for pubs, roles have reversed and his regulars have been calling up to check in.

“It’s like the boot is on the other foot,” he said.

The Old Horse, Leicester, made headlines this month after Shepherdson filmed himself pouring 800 pints’ worth of beer down the drain, equating to a loss of around £3,000.

This was despite the pub choosing not to have a delivery the week that pubs were ordered to close, so having less stock than usual.

The pub stocks around 16 traditional ales, as well as ciders and bitters, and has been continuing to keep customers engaged and educated on new drinks via its Facebook page.

Shepherdson added: “We’re keeping people in touch with what improvements we’re doing. It just keeps them going a bit. 

“We’re a big cider pub, and so we have shared [ciderologist] Gabe Cook doing a virtual online cider tour, to let people know how it’s brewed and what to look for in the tasting notes, on the Facebook site.

“[Overseeing a pub at this time is] something I’ve never done. It’s a bit of history but you don't know whether you're doing it right or wrong because nobody has ever done it.”

Strange thing

He said it had been “quite a strange thing” to shut down all the fridges and cooling systems on-site. “They’ve never been turned off before because we’re always running. You’re thinking ‘do I have to drain this or that?’ 

“We clean all beer lines once a week but now, instead of beer, we’re flushing them through with fresh water each week. It’s a new experience for us all. It’s strange.”

The evening Boris Johnson ordered pubs to close (Friday 20 March) was one of the pub’s busiest nights.

Shepherdson said: “People just shot out. It was quite an emotional night and, when I rang the bell for the last time, it was quite tearful.”

Among those saying farewell to the pub was the local rugby team, which has a close connection to the pub. “They all rallied round as a last farewell,” the operator said.

“The pub is not just all about drinking, it’s people's social life. It’s a bit of a lost moment.”

Brewery support

The Old Horse will not receive a grant from the Government but has had its rent waived by Everards Brewery, which Shepherdson described as “a godsend”.

He added: “They have been really helpful, you don't feel forgotten.

“We haven’t really had anyone, such as suppliers, demanding stuff and saying we want the full payment.”

Alongside his wife Dee, the publican has been spending the lockdown sprucing up his site rather than attempting to operate as a takeaway or delivery service like some pubs have done.

He said: “We’re right opposite the university and a lot of our trade is students. They’re gone so there’s nobody around it. 

“We’re more or less shut down and doing every job we can’t do when the pub is open. It’s a lovely, beautiful-looking pub at the moment... with nobody in.”

Related topics: Beer, Events & Occasions, UnitedWeStand

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