Adam and Suzanne Franklin closed the Horse & Jockey pub in Melling, Merseyside, a few days ahead of the order for pubs to close in March.
Since then, they have been overseeing a taskforce of around 40 volunteers who carry out deliveries of around 80 hot meals every night, pharmacy deliveries and daily phone call check-ins to the village’s vulnerable and isolated members.
Adam hopes his pub’s presence in the community during these times will ensure its survival in tricky trading times ahead, with customers opting for his independent above other pubs that have been closed in this period. He is also planning to set up a community interest company.
He said: “It has been a slog every day. The council, charities and social enterprises already in place are obviously already inundated as well and referring people to us.
“The pub has absolutely come into its own from a derelict pub four years ago to where it is now. It’s just brilliant and a testament to its community.
“Messages of support have buoyed the volunteers into doing it every day. When we do reopen [as a pub], I'm hopeful we’re going to get the support.”
He added: “Managed houses, with the best of intentions, offered to support the community but [then] when that mandate came round to shut up shop and look after yourselves, it has fallen to the tenanted pubs, where it is our community.
“I feel what we are doing at the moment is our only option because we can’t just shut up shop completely and come back in three months. We have to be here.
“My big, big concern is when we open up, the small people are going to get squashed because we just can’t compete with the offers of larger pub companies.
“The pubs that are active have a better chance of survival after this.”
Adam feels the pub has been lucky with Government support, having received its furlough payments and £25,000 grant.
He has no plans to slow down the scheme’s operation, ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Sunday (10 May) when he is expected to announce gradual plans for an ‘unlockdown’.
He said: “This problem isn't going to go away anytime soon in these semi-rural areas.
“Regardless of what happens with announcements, we’re still going to have 80-100 pensioners who are not tech-savvy and can’t book slots at online supermarkets. What we are starting to see now is the support systems of more affluent pensioners, who were really prepared for this, starting to break down.”
The month before the lockdown was announced saw a boost in trade for the Horse & Jockey, as people did not want to leave the village. Adam believes a localised approach to lifting the lockdown may benefit local pubs like his, if people are told to stay in their communities.