As reported by The Morning Advertiser (MA) on 3 June, Channel Islands-based pub operator Liberation Group announced plans to start opening sites on Guernsey and Jersey from 15 and 16 June respectively despite pubs in mainland Britain not opening until 4 July at the earliest.
Guernsey – which was the first area of the British Isles to have no active coronavirus cases – hasn’t had a recorded case since April, while Jersey moved to a level two lockdown on Friday 12 June, meaning businesses, including indoor cafés and restaurants, were able to reopen under social distancing rules.
Following these developments, Liberation Group announced four of its 22 pubs on Guernsey – the Deerhound Inn, Forest as well as St Peter Port pubs Thomas de la Rue, Dix Neuf and the Ship & Crown – would open on 15 June.
Speaking to MA, Patrick Anslow, the general manager of the Ship & Crown, explained trade in Guernsey has “bounced back really well” thus far.
“Our support from the Government over here has been unbelievable, the communication's been excellent - this has come around really quickly,” he said
"In Guernsey we have what's called a controlled environment where we're allowed to do one-metre distancing, but the customers have to sign in - they have to give us their name and a contact number which we retain for 14 days so there's a track and trace element. Should anything flare up we can identify which pub or business someone's been in.
"We've got sanitiser pretty much everywhere with lots of floor markings so, in my unit, we have a one way in, one way out policy - so even if you go out to smoke at our back door you still have to come round the front of the business and back in the front door again, just so we can keep an eye on customers,” he continued.
"Additionally, you're not allowed to sit at the bar or come to the bar to get drinks - it's purely table service. So, as you come into the pub, on most occasions you'd be met by my ugly mug and I will direct you to a table, or take you to a table, and then we'll take and process a drinks order.”
Customers have been really compliant
Anslow added in the short space of time his pub has been open post-lockdown, customers have been “trickling back” to the pub and that Covid-19 doesn’t appear to have done any lasting damage to consumer confidence.
“Obviously we're only into Wednesday so I'm still trying to get a gauge of it, but regular customers are coming back,” he said.
“What we're lacking is the tourist element over here, but the biggie for us is that come 20 June, our restrictions go completely, other than travel restrictions, which are purely border controls."
What’s more, Anslow explains that he’s been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of customers for the distancing measures under which the Ship & Crown has operated.
"I think customers have been really compliant,” he said. “They've taken it in their stride that they've got to sanitise as they come in, give us their name and a contact number.
“We've been working with staff for the past two or three weeks and getting them really on board through training. They've done individualised training relevant to Covid-19 and it's great to see that everyone's happy to be constantly sanitising.”
In terms of trading, Anslow adds the split has been “pretty much 50:50” between food and drink sales largely as a knock on effect of tourists being barred from Guernsey and therefore sampling local delicacies at the Ship & Crown.
"The trade that would come in from the cruise ships and people coming in on holiday makes up a lot of the food element of my business,” he explained. “Certainly going forward it's imperative for me to look at areas I can drive my business forward to appeal to the local trade."
Pubs fully booked
The day after four of its sites on Guernsey reopened, Liberation Group resumed trading at four of its 44 Jersey pubs – the Old Court House in St Aubin, the Square in St Helier, the Trinity Arms in Trinity and the White Horse Beach Bar & Eatery in St Saviour.
Steve Elson, Liberation Group’s operations manager for Jersey explained that, like on Guernsey, consumer confidence doesn’t appear to have been dented by lockdown or social distancing measures which have seen sites reopen at reduced capacity.
"The Trinity and White Horse were fully booked yesterday (16 June),” he told MA. “I think they’re full Thursday, Friday and Saturday too.
“We are restricted to a three-hour limit where people can stay in the pub at the moment. I do feel people wanted to come back and they wanted to stay more, but we had to advise them it's not really possible at this point."
In terms of the consumer journey in post-lockdown pubs on Jersey, while Elson describes the process as “strict” he adds he and his staff endeavour to make it informative rather than intrusive.
“You will have entry and exit points going into pubs, and when you go in through the door there are signs saying 'please wait here to be seated' along with sanitising units there,” he explained.
“We have single-use menus as well. We ask customers to wait until a host comes along and then they'll be seated. You have to eat in Jersey, you can't just come in and have a drink.”
It’s almost like we’ve not been closed
However, despite the new routine, like Anslow, Elson explains returning customers have demonstrated a degree of enthusiasm for post-lockdown rules.
"We do have a couple of customers who've come in and do want to see what processes we've put in place and that we've adhered to the Government’s guidelines,” he said. “Anyone who asks us, we show around so they can see exactly what we do.
"We have a 20-minute clean down schedule where all touch points are basically sanitised down and inspected - toilets, tables, salt and pepper pots.
“Every time you order a drink from the bar it comes over on a tray and we ask customers if they'll kindly take their drinks from the tray.
"Our staff really couldn’t wait to get back,” he continued. “We're hoping that as Government guidelines come out it could possibly go down to a one-metre rule but to be honest, it's just the capacity and size that makes the difference. It almost didn't feel like we'd closed for 12 weeks.”