Meet the GBPA Pub Heroes - Punch Pub Hero

By Ed Bedington contact

- Last updated on GMT

Vote for your winner
Vote for your winner

Related tags: Tenanted + leased, Pubco + head office, Social responsibility

The corona crisis gave pubs across the opportunity the opportunity to shine, despite the challenges they faced, and Punch Pub tenants were quick to step up to the mark.

The Great British Pub Awards Pub Heroes 2020 gives us the chance to recognise those operators that did such a good job when facing such serious hurdles.

Ed Bedington, editor of The MA, which organises the awards, said: “When the chips were down, we saw pubs really get going and work hard to continue to engage and support the communities they served.

“Punch tenants were among those that gave us real inspiration about how innovative, supportive and entrepreneurial the sector can be, particularly when those skills are turned to supporting the communities they serve.

“Working with Punch, we’ve shortlisted six operators from a wide range of superb businesses in their estate, to give you the opportunity to vote for the winners.”

The shortlist is:


Spread Eagle, Bromley Cross in Bolton

Their story:

George and Daniel did a standout job during lockdown. Taking over the pub in August 2019 after a significant investment Dan and George set about re-establishing a connection with the community. 

They were making great headway when COVID hit but rather than be defeated they were more driven to stop and think about what they could be doing instead. By talking to local groups and suppliers they quickly decided that what the community needed was a local shop offer to support through lockdown. 

Setting up a community market in the pub and beer garden they were able to offer an incredible range of produce from staples like bread and potatoes to something a little more exotic like fresh chilli and kiwi fruit. George and Dan would get up at 1am most mornings to go to the market ensuring they could get the best produce for their customers before getting back to the pub for around 5am to ready the orders received for collection. The pub also ran a popular takeaway menu offer and made afternoon teas which were available as a treat or even as a gift. Gifted afternoon teas and cheese boards were given extra special treatment and delivered with special messages, treats and even balloons!

George and Daniel regularly went ‘live’ on Facebook to share with the community what they had going on that day and more importantly what special treats they’d purchased at the market that morning. Through all of this social activity the pubs Facebook following more than doubled through the lockdown period!

Never wanting to miss an opportunity to help the pair also hosted special charity events with a charity bike ride outside the pub raising over £2000 for the community support group. An online bingo night raised enough money to pay for 180 afternoon teas which were then delivered to vulnerable members of the community to enjoy on VE Day. Thanks to this pairs amazing efforts, they’ve achieved their goal of engaging with the community in a really powerful and authentic way.


The Scotts Arms, Wetherby

Their story: 

The Scotts Arms is a family run business with the same family running the pub since 2006. Ted Van Zeller had previously been running the pub as manager before taking over himself in 2006.

Whilst dad, Ted was operating the pub his son, Glen ran ‘Scotts Arms Stoves’ from an outbuilding at the rear of the pub. Over the years Glen has become more and more involved, helping his dad to run the pub until Ted recently made the decision to hand over the baton and assigned the business to Glen. 

Now at the helm and with the support of his father, who still works in the pub, Glen is passionate about this landmark pub which has continued to go from strength to strength over the years. 

When lockdown struck Glen and Ted remained positive and focussed and set about establishing  a takeaway offer which got off to a flying start, for it then only to get busier and busier as the word spread through the community.

Available for delivery or collection, the pub offered precooked, homemade ‘ready meals’ that were frozen or chilled and packaged with a full ingredients list and cooking instructions for customers to safely enjoy whenever they wanted them. Customers were loving this home cooked treat with favourites such as homemade lasagne, beef and ale pie and chicken tikka masala selling out daily. You could even get a tasty pud whether that be a homemade crumble or a chocolate bread and butter pudding with custard! Glen had thought of everything.

Well-loved Sunday Roasts were also made available for a takeaway option with a selection of meats, all the veg and homemade gravy and Yorkshires to take the stress out of cooking another meal at home. The takeaway offer has proven so successful that Glen has kept it going post lockdown so customers can still get their favourite meals at home even though the pub is back open.

Together with the takeaway, Glen also made available essential items such as bread, milk and eggs which he also provided via delivery or collection.

Surrounded by the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, Sicklinghall, the village where the pub sits is a popular route for walkers and cyclists. To try and capture this passing trade, Glen set up a bespoke ‘refreshments menu’ and a makeshift walk/cycle by refreshments store where guests passing through enjoying their daily exercise could get a cold drink (including beer) – coffee or ice cream!

As well as running a successful food offer throughout, Glen has also taken the time through the lockdown period to revamp the garden space. He has extended the outdoor area which now has both a patio and grassed area which is more accessible for customers to enjoy. 

With more tables, quality umbrellas and décor including flowers and a feature fountain Glen has created an idyllic spot for guests to enjoy a nice cold drink or a meal in the sunshine. The garden looks amazing and has been well received by guests since the pub reopened!


The Victoria, Liverpool

Their story:

Sue Gilbertson, the Publican of the Victoria, has taken the pub from strength to strength from the day she was handed the keys. With a determination to bring locals together she has transformed this pub into a true community hub.

During the closure period Sue utilised her government grant money to completely revamp the pub inside and out, restoring the pub to its former glory and taking special care to highlight many of the pubs original and iconic features that its guests are so fond of.

Outside she has taken what was a concrete yard and transformed it into a vibrant beer garden, full of colourful furniture as well as covers to maximise the space in the pub and to allow customers to safely enjoy an outdoor pub experience even on a rainy day.

Sue has put the Victoria back on the ‘historic walks’ map in order to encourage more visitors to the area. She listens to her customers and adapts and provides a varied offer she knows locals and visitors will love, including regular live entertainment and open mic nights to provide a platform for local artists to showcase their talent. She has worked tirelessly to keep in touch and engage with the community throughout the lockdown period and has kept them updated every step of the way. This has included regular social media posts and even a video walkthrough of the pub to set out the COVID-19 measures and reassure customers the pub is a safe place to be.

The work Sue has done during her time running the Victoria has given the community their beloved local pub back. The reaction from the local community has been phenomenal, with recognition of her enthusiasm and dedication at the forefront. Sue has created a centre for laughter, catch-ups, friends to come together and new relationships to form. She has shown herself to be a passionate Publican with a love for the Victoria and the locals who she places at its core.

Unicorn, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire

Their story:

The Unicorn pub in Kings Langley is run by Debbie Moore and her family.

Already famous for its quality Sunday Roasts Debbie didn’t want her customers to miss out during lockdown and so she decided to offer a takeaway service. Working quickly this offer started on Mother’s Day which was a huge success and set the tone of every Sunday Roast takeaway being sold out throughout lock down.

Debbie also reached out to families within the community and delivered critical supplies to locals who may have been vulnerable and couldn’t get out. She also asked the families of the elderly who may not have loved ones nearby if they needed food supplies, hot meals or even just to check in on them on a regular basis if they were on their own. Supporting local families and looking after the elderly in the community is something Debbie is known for. Debbie is a publican who truly knows her community, she will follow up with locals who do not show up as ‘normal’ to make sure they are okay and able to get out.

She hosts a special Christmas lunch (free of charge) for the vulnerable elderly in the area every year and really makes an occasion of it.

Debbie’s kindhearted nature and actions deservedly caught the interest of the Watford Observer newspaper who recently did an article in recognition for support of the local community and the work that Debbie does.

When the Unicorn re-opened on the 4th July, in order to ensure they could accommodate all the locals back in (within social distancing guidelines) Debbie and the team converted the car park to create additional outdoor seating and made additional benches for customers to use. They even provided an outside toilet cabin so as many people as possible could be safely welcomed back into their beloved local. With safety being a top priority Debbie even had a test run inviting all staff and friends the day before to ensure all could be served and still keep within the guidelines. This gave Debbie and the team confidence that they could still provide an epic experience for their customers.

The pub has reopened and still serves a range of traditional pub food, Sunday roasts are more popular than ever and the take away has such a massive following they decided to keep it going.


The Victoria, Newton le Willows

Their story:

The Victoria in Newton le Willows is a well-loved traditional pub that welcomes everyone through their doors. The pub is run by Kath O’Neil who was nominated by the Punch team for always going the extra mile for people within the community. Kath has taken what has always been a difficult pub and putting all her efforts into enhancing the pubs opportunity and driving it forwards into the next chapter. Kath has done an incredible job to re engage with the community and running a safe, warm and welcoming pub for all. 

When the pub closed due to lockdown Kath was asked by the local councillor if she could help store essential food supplies in the pubs fridges and freezers which were being donated to deliver to people in the community who were vulnerable and shielding due to Covid 19. Kath instantly agreed but wanted to go further to help support people in any way she could. Kath set up a food bank at the pub on April 3rd and started to help making the food hampers each morning to deliver to each house with the help of volunteers. Together with local volunteer group ‘Newton Helping Hands’ Kath and the pub team delivered to 150 houses a week through the lockdown period.

As Easter approached the group helped raise more than £1000 to buy 2500 Easter eggs which were stored at the pub before being delivered on Easter Sunday to every primary school child in Newton le Willows. 100 volunteers helped to deliver the eggs, and this made ITV news and the St Helens Star paper with a few of the volunteers, including Kath, photographed outside the pub.

This community effort was noticed by local celebrity Johnny Vegas contacted the newton helping hands group and asked to help with donations as he was volunteering at another pub in St Helens for the Steve Prescott foundation charity. Johnny came to The Victoria on a weekly basis with tons of donations to help with our food bank.

Following the success of the food bank, Kath and the team were awarded with a St Helens Tunza award for all the help in lock down.

On top of all of this, Kath also set up a take away service serving food and drink which was a huge success.


Chequers Inn, Poole

Their story:

The Chequers pub in Poole, Dorset, is run by Publicans, Tim and Vanessa Mulholland. Both are very experienced in hospitality, but the Chequers was their first pub venture. Tim and Vanessa have put an outstanding amount of effort and time into taking their entire community on a journey over the last few months.

Their passion for the pub and the local people has really shone through during these extremely challenging times. They have gone above and beyond in supporting their customers and friends in any way they could.

Initially they focused on listening to their locals to understand what the community was desperate for during the lockdown period. They adapted their business to meet the needs of the community any way that they could, setting up a pub shop and ensuring products and essential items that were in low supply elsewhere were available to order and collect from the pub. They provided significant support to the vulnerable, delivering veg boxes from the pub shop to those who are shielding. They also set up some fantastic menus for takeaway throughout lockdown, including a special VE Day takeaway BBQ that helped people to feel they were still celebrating the day in an authentic and traditional way. They continuously engaged with locals, providing a point of contact to some who would have otherwise struggled or felt completely isolated, and even in the thick of the pandemic they ensured the Chequers continued to operate as the hub of the community even when it was forced to close.

The takeaway meals were a huge success, so much so that the weekly food menu and famous Sunday Roasts continue to be available to takeaway today. Tim and Vanessa are still listening and supporting the community and have made the pub shop a permanent feature by teaming up with a local market stall owner who sets up their stall in the pubs carpark every Thursday, now known as ‘Market Day’, to continue to provide the community with fresh quality produce.

Upon reopening the pub Tim and Vanessa have gone above and beyond to ensure it is a safe place and continued to update customers with the measure in place to reassure them they can enjoy a relaxed experience whilst feeling secure. The Chequers continues to be recognised by the community and is deeply ingrained in locals hearts.

The Plough Inn, Ellington, Morpeth

Their story:

From supporting our local communities with our foodbank and food share table, to spreading a little bit of joy to people on VE day, raising money for a local isolation support group and supporting our NHS. We’ve done our little part to help.

We cannot express how much we love all of the amazing people who work for the NHS. So when we spot a couple of paramedics who have been on the front line throughout the entire pandemic having a break in the car park, we think it’s only right to offer them a cuppa and a few sweets to keep them going through a long shift. For them to then post on Facebook thanking us nearly reduced us to tears.

We also made use of our hotel rooms being empty during lockdown to help out one of the local nurses. She was working in one of the busiest hospitals in the region dealing with covid-19 patients, and due to her husband being in the high risk category and her 90 year old mother living with her, she couldn’t stay at home and put them at risk. We heard about this and offered her one of our rooms free of charge and made sure she was made to feel at home in a time that must have been incredibly hard for her. Gifts arriving on our doorstep as a thank you when she left once again put it into context how incredibly selfless NHS staff are  #notallheroeswearcapes

Our share table has played a crucial role in supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Those individuals who have not been able to travel due to limited public transport and the pressing concern of having to visit a very busy supermarket, have been able to collect essential items from the table. The support of other community members adding a few extra items to their shopping baskets and leaving them on the table has been overwhelming.

As well as our share table, we have made the most out of having an empty pub by hosting a food bank. Once again, donations have been overwhelming. This meant we were able to provide people in desperate need of food supplies with parcels containing essential food items and toiletries. Averaging at 2 to 3 parcels per day delivered to our village and the 3 surrounding villages, this has given a lot of households a vital lifeline in a time of hardship.

VE day. A day to celebrate the Great British resolve. And the circumstances on the 75th​ anniversary could not have shown it better. Socially distant street parties were planned in the absence of the Great British pub being open. Undeterred by the public not being able to visit us, we decided to decorate the car and load up with cakes, scones, pies and of course gin and tonic, and visit the public instead. And so ‘The Plough on Tour’ did the rounds to spread a little bit of joy to the local community. An optional donation to the local isolation support group for a G&T and some sweet treats proved that once again the generosity of people knows no bounds. With nearly £400 raised and going straight back into the community to support those in need.

 All our efforts would be futile if it wasn’t for the CELL isolation help group. Ourselves and a group of people from the area started the group to help our local community out in any way possible. The amount of time this group of people devote to the group in nothing short of amazing. From admin work to delivering food parcels, organising support from bigger charity groups to visiting vulnerable members of the community who just need a chat. We’re proud to be a part of this amazing group of people and play our part in supporting our fantastic local area.



To vote for your winners, click here​.

Related topics: Events & Occasions

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