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Community rallies around pub shut three weeks after reopening

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Recently reopened: the revamped Woodlands pub had been open for a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic hit
Recently reopened: the revamped Woodlands pub had been open for a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic hit

Related tags: coronavirus

An operator whose pub had only been open for three weeks before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has said she is grateful for the response from her community.

Diane Lee-Lyons is the general manager at the Woodlands pub, in St Helen’s, Merseyside, which she took over in December with her husband Michael.

Diane Lee-Lyons and her husband outside the Woodlands pub in St Helens
Diane Lee-Lyons and her husband outside the Woodlands pub in St Helens

The pub – part of the Blackrose estate – had to operate reduced hours by its fourth week of reopening because of the fears around coronavirus spreading, after the site had been closed for a month-long refurbishment between January to February. 

She said: “We haven’t been in the area for long, we aren’t from here.

“Because the pub has been here so long, it’s a really big part of the community. My husband and myself are big believers in community pubs and bringing people together that way. 

“We’re so glad we’ve been made to feel so welcome around here but what we want to stress is that our customers stay home and stay safe because, at this time, it’s so important that everybody does that.”

The pub has decided to host an online auction to raise money for nearby Willowbrook Hospice​, which cares for patients with life limiting diseases, by selling former pub decor. 

Community’s heart

Lee-Lyons added: “We were going to do a charity for the year and we had already chosen to do Willowbrook because it is very close to the community’s heart around here.

“We saw they were struggling now and we wanted to do something now. Their usual charity fundraising has dried up.

“People had already been saying ‘actually we quite fancy that picture, if you’re not going to put it back up [after the refit].”

The virtual auction will run on the pub’s Facebook page from today (Thursday 23 April) until 14 May 9am.

Lee-Lyons said: “We are aiming to raise as much as we can because we know, in these times, some people are struggling for money at the minute so we are asking for whatever people can give.

“We haven’t got a target we’ve just said every single penny we raise is going to Willowbrook, so as little or as much as you can give is phenomenal.”

Staying connected 

Although the pub was recently revamped, the operators are still making the most of the lockdown to improve aspects of the garden that they couldn’t get done in the winter.

The couple have also kept busy by keeping in contact with their team on a WhatsApp​ group.

Lee-Lyons said: “I keep in contact with them all the time, just to keep the communication going and to make them feel they are not alone.”

She also takes part in a video conference call twice a week with other Blackrose area managers. Lee-Lyons said: “We can either just be silly or voice what we want to talk about or anything our staff want to ask about. 

“You've still got that interaction, it also lets you know there are other people out there.

“People are worrying about all sorts of different things. That holiday feel of lockdown kind of goes away.”

Related topics: Events & Occasions, UnitedWeStand

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