Pubs ‘humbled’ by support from crowdfunders

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Loyal punters: customers have been donating to pubs’ crowdfunding in return for rewards and vouchers
Loyal punters: customers have been donating to pubs’ crowdfunding in return for rewards and vouchers

Related tags Coronavirus

Pubs have been turning to crowdfunding websites in order to boost their cash flow.

The Portland Arms, in Cambridge, had a crowdfunder created for it by a promotion company that uses the pub to host live music gigs.

The pub will use the funds to help pay 12 weeks of rent payments to Greene King, which have been deferred.

Hayley Pellegrini, partner at the Pelle Pub Company, said: “[I feel] thankful that we do have such loyal followers in our customers but it’s like ‘why are they having to do this?’. It’s a double-edged thing. 

“Makes you really proud of the kind of customers you have and the community spirit you have built up – over 15 years – but it’s depressing that we have to do this.

“Margins are so small in the pub trade that if you don’t trade for a week, you’re in trouble, let alone however long this is going to be.”

Protecting the community

She continued: “[It has been] humbling how nice everyone is but also a bit humiliating and like a handover, but you can’t think of it like that. We’re protecting it [the pub] for the community and staff’s jobs.

“It’s unprecedented, nobody could see this coming.”

The pub has received payments from the Government’s furlough scheme and its hospitality grant scheme but the operator said this was not enough to keep the business going.

Music Venues Trust has launched a #saveourvenues campaign, which will see music artists help raise funds for the grassroots venues they have played at.  

Laura Lythall runs the Ship (pictured) on the Isle of Dogs, east London, and initially created a crowdfunder over fears her staff would suffer lack of income, before the furlough scheme was announced.

Now, funds from its ‘pay it forward’ voucher scheme will help the pub with cash flow.

She said: “We’re quite a local pub and have a strong regular clientele. People were really interested in a way to help us out in our time of need. It makes you feel like you are not alone out there.” 

Although the pub does qualify for a grant under the Government scheme to help hospitality businesses, Lythall says this money will only go so far.

She added: “It would have been impossible to do anything without the grant really. It tides us over for two months of no trading from closure. I think we’re going to be closed for a bit longer than that so it is a help but it just depends on the time that we’re going to be closed for.”

The most popular gift voucher has been the £100 option, which the operator says is a morale boost for her team.

Get personal

Her advice to other publicans considering setting up a crowdfunding page is to tell a personal story.

She said: “As we are a local pub, we made our crowdfunder quite personal and, along the way, we have been ensuring we give everyone updates on any maintenance on the pub and keeping people involved on social media.”

Using photos of people and the odd video is a good way to get customers engaged, she advised. 

The Plough in Prestbury, Cheltenham, has been using Crowdfunder to sell tickets to a virtual pub quiz hosted by famous comedians, to raise money for the site and for the The National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal.

The Covid Arms quiz will see a Guinness World Record attempt to create the biggest virtual pub.

Charity support

Operator Emma Gibbon said: “It’s a case of customers actually buying something and getting something out of it. It’s just a little something to keep the community together.”

The pub will also donate a portion of proceeds raised to the Sue Ryder charity, which it would have usually hosted fundraising events in aid of.

Gibbon said the money would “keep the pub ticking over”, and go into a fund to paint benches and carry out small refurbishments. 

She added: “We don’t think we’re going to be raising the roof with the amount we raise.

“For us, it’s just about keeping pubs in the forefront of people’s minds and drumming up business. We can’t open our doors physically but let’s all get together and think about pubs.”

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