Leicester operator helping community while closed

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Using the time wisely: publican Stephen Ward has been ensuring his pub is Covid-secure while it remains closed (image: Mat Fascione, Geograph)
Using the time wisely: publican Stephen Ward has been ensuring his pub is Covid-secure while it remains closed (image: Mat Fascione, Geograph)

Related tags Health and safety Training Leicester Hygiene + cleaning

A publican in Leicester has shared his experiences of a continued shutdown after the city was placed into a ‘local lockdown’ at the start of the month, owing to high numbers of Covid-19 cases.

Licensee Stephen Ward runs the Harrow Inn in Thurmaston, Leicester, has used the additional time closed to Covid-proof the pub, with screens and sanitiser stations installed.

The pub’s smoking areas and gardens have been refurbished to accommodate more space for outside drinkers. The team has also added six sanitiser stations and put up a screen around the bar to protect staff. What’s more, the pub upgraded its fan system and added new filters.

The pub's improved outside area
The pub's improved outside area

Despite the extended closure period for Leicester pubs​, business minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed there were no plans to change or extend any current financial schemes for businesses in the city.

Ward said he was “not too upset” about this considering the Government’s existing shutdown support measures, which he described as a “lifeline” for many pubs.

He added: “My advice to other pubs facing lockdown is to use the time closed to look at ways to boost customer confidence via media, Facebook etc. It’s going to be hard getting customers back."

The operator is in no rush to reopen and said he thought it was “too early to be opening pubs full on at this time” given the presence of the virus still. He pointed to several areas where pubs had decided to close after customers tested positive for Covid-19.

For now, Ward is keeping busy by offering carvery meals each Sunday and providing food for local food banks and nurses at the city’s three hospitals. 

The pub has been keeping residents updated on its reopening preparations through social media.

Lockdown review

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Tuesday (14 July) the measures in the East Midlands city will be reviewed this week.

He said: "There is a process for whether changes can be made in Leicester," he said.

"The process is that we will look at 14 days of data – it is today 14 days since the measures were introduced.

 "We'll look at that on Thursday of this week and make a public announcement, as soon as is reasonably possible, about whether and if any changes can be made to the situation in Leicester.”

New coronavirus cases in the city have fallen over the recent weeks but are still far higher than other parts of the country, Hancock said.

Sam Hagger, director of SSOOSH Inns Limited which operates the four-site strong Beautiful Pubs Collective in Leicester, spoke to The Morning Advertiser (MA) when the local lockdown was declared.​ He said: “We completely support the decision to enforce this lockdown and protect the lives in local communities, it's just extremely challenging.”

British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) chief executive Steve Alton called for an extension of grant support for pubs who were involved in local lockdowns.

He said: “The recognition from pubs of the part they have to play in making Test & Trace successful, has been great to see and we know that individual pubs have responded calmly and responsibly to help contain the virus.

"Our members’ businesses are so fragile at the moment however, that any further lockdowns on a localised basis could equal business failure. We are continuing to push for further cash grants for pubs whilst social distancing guidelines are still in place. An extension of the grant programme is needed, as our pubs reopen with limited capacity and increased overheads to keep their teams and customers safe."

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