Meet the GBPA Pub Heroes finalists - Star Pubs & Bars Pub Hero

By Ed Bedington contact

- Last updated on GMT

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

Pubs across the UK have achieved some amazing successes despite the impact of the pandemic and the lockdown, and Star Pubs & Bars tenants were no exception.

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

Ed Bedington, editor of The MA, which organises the awards, said: “Star operators did not rest on their laurels and you can see from the stories below just how amazing they’ve been.

“From re-engineering businesses during the toughest times to engaging across the board with the local community.

“We’ve selected a shortlist of just some of the great operations within the Star estate for you to cast your votes for.”

The shortlisted pubs are:


The Mill at Stokesley, N Yorks

Their story:

Realising that many elderly people had no outside space to enjoy or anywhere to safely socialise during lockdown, licensee Alex Cook created a community garden on disused pub land. The unlicensed area has its own entrance and seating for 20 and is used by the primary school, too. Regulars, residents and businesses supported the venture with labour and donations. The garden generated community spirit and good news at a difficult time, and The Mill is maintaining it as a positive lockdown legacy.

The pub also fed the community from lockdown’s start, delivering 1,000 frozen dishes to the vulnerable and those struggling to get food in the first fortnight. From then on, it provided takeaway and delivery food to 500 people a week.

To show the pub’s appreciation to the NHS, Alex produced £20 Mill T shirts printed with a message of thanks. All profits go to Teeside Hospital.

As a sign of hope for the community, The Mill underwent a major refurbishment whilst closed. It added a 30-seater outdoor area, allowing those concerned about meeting inside to gather with friends post lockdown. 

Says Alex: “I wanted to give back to the community. The response has been phenomenal.”


The Star, Ashton Under Hill

Their story:

With no shop in Ashton under Hill, licensee Vicky Lawson stepped in and turned The Star into a village shop, takeaway and off-license. The initiative enabled many elderly and shielding people unable to shop online to get food and also protected residents keen to minimise the village’s exposure to Covid-19. 

Helped by volunteers, the pub was producing 350 meat, veg and grocery boxes and 340 meals a week at the peak of the pandemic. To meet requests for more unusual items, Vicky even made regular supermarket runs. No delivery charge was made however small the order to cater for those living on their own. The service was a lifeline for the community, and the pub has been inundated with thanks.

Says Vicky: “People were desperate and had nowhere else to turn. I’ve cried on the phone with disabled residents running out of food and in need of help and I’ve smiled at every one-person Sunday lunch we delivered because that meant someone eating alone was still cared for.” 

The shop is a breakeven venture but, with some still cautious about going out, Vicky is retaining it for the foreseeable future, offering collections and deliveries from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday.

Snow Goose, Farnborough

Their story:

For Kate Hayden and Paul Warriner of The Snowgoose, Farnborough, the actions of the pub during lockdown were as important as its role in the community when open. Even before closure they were thinking how they could support the vulnerable and deserving.  They donated their Mother’s Day prepped veg and meat to NHS staff, creating a selection of mixed hampers. They gave away 300 loaves and free eggs to NHS staff struggling to buy the basics due to panic buying, and on the eve of 20th March distributed care packages to NHS staff and the self-isolating consisting of the pub’s fridge food and much needed toilet rolls. They also arranged for vulnerable residents to order meat and bread from the pub’s butcher and baker and had it delivered to the pub so they could avoid queues. By buying bread at cost from their independent local loan working baker, they were able to help her keep her business afloat, which was hugely important to them as they wanted to ensure a great local and organic supplier was still there when they reopened.

Their NHS worker support proved so popular that The Snowgoose set up an ongoing NHS Essentials service selling milk, bacon, eggs and bread at cost to care workers, key workers, 999 response and NHS staff. For elderly residents no longer able to get newspapers, the pub ordered them from the local paper shop (helping both shop and customers) on their behalf to be collected or delivered by pub staff.  

The Pub also ran a foodbank for 8-10 self-employed residents struggling with no immediate income. The pub donated all the fresh food items and Kate would go shopping to buy items dependent on family size and needs, whilst generous local residents donated dry goods.

Contact with regulars was also a key part of the pub’s lockdown outreach.  It hosted regular house party chats and Kate messaged customers on their own to see if they were ok. Easter didn’t go unnoticed either. The pub reached out to families.  Spider Man dropped off Easter eggs donated by local residents and Easter colouring sheets to families houses and the children’s ward at Frimley park hospital. Staff were also looked after… online training and a weekly group call helped with mental wellbeing. And more broadly, the pub contacted local COVID-19 forums with an offer of support of any kind. Lockdown might be over but Kate and Paul are planning an annual COVID-19K run for the community to remember COVID. Entry funds will be donated to the local hospital and fittingly, it will start and end at the pub.

The King’s Arms, Bexleyheath

Their story:

For Pete Marshall of The King’s Arms, Bexley Heath his focus during lockdown was for the pub to play a central role in the community, whether ensuring customers had fun and were connected with one another or delivering roasts to doctors and nurses whilst keeping the pub in the public eye.

To that end, on Mother's Day, he and his team delivered 30 free Mother’s Day meals to customers with socially isolating mothers and 30 roast dinners to frontline staff working at the local hospital.  Pete felt that that it was a really nice thing to do and was moved by gratitude from the NHS staff. From then on throughout lockdown the pub's chef, helped by volunteer members of staff, prepped, cooked and delivered 50 roasts every Sunday for hospital staff, providing a total of 700 dinners to doctors and nurses during lockdown. 

These meals were wholly self-funded by the pub for the first four weeks. Thereafter, local business sponsorship helped The King's Arms cover some of their food costs. Pete also set up a takeaway and delivery service from the pub and launched a delivery service via Uber and Deliveroo  providing customers with favourite dishes from the pub menu during lockdown.

Mindful of the lack of a community hub and the importance of the mental health of customers during lockdown, Pete migrated The King's Arms successful pub weekly quiz online. In the first week of lockdown a high production Facebook live version of the pub quiz went was launched and at its peak reached an audience of around 1300-1500 people providing weekly good cheer to nearly 400 households. Customers have been enormously grateful to the pub for hosting the quiz for 14 weeks with a common theme being that the pub quiz provided a structure to their week and was the highlight of their weekly calendar. The pub's one off Friend's Quiz Special, had even more impact, raising £1250 for the NHS. 

The White Hart, Wadworth

Their story:

Running The White Hart, the only pub in a village of mainly senior citizens, Rita Cox was determined to keep spirits up and continue to provide hot food during lockdown. With just one chef, an assistant and herself, together they cooked and personally delivered 400 hot home-made meals a week within a four-mile radius of the pub. Seeing their role as more of a community service than a profit-making venture, the OAPs were offered a choice of six hearty dishes charged at just £5 a head with additional options for other customers.

With no meals on wheels available, the council recognised the value of this service and asked if the pub could deliver further afield.  However, with staff furloughed due to people in their homes shielding this wasn’t possible. Instead they offered a collection service for those phoning in with orders. Now staff are back Rita is in discussions with them about helping cater for the area’s senior citizens. When delivering to shielding customers, Rita also checked to see they were okay and ensure they had the pub telephone number should they need any essentials like bread and eggs, which the pub had in stock. With the village shop opposite, Rita bought basics for customers and delivered with their meals, when needed.

To lift spirits The White Hart also ran a children’s colouring competition with pictures displayed in the pub window, and at 6.30am on the morning after Lockdown, Rita put up bunting outside the pub to show that everyone was in lockdown together. Fifteen weeks later, Rita still hasn’t had a day off. Although she’s found it challenging, she feels a sense of achievement that she has given back to the community whose pub she has run for the last 6 years.

The Hare & Hounds, West Ardsley

Their story:

Licensee Jackie Fairburn and her partner Patrick McElroy supported 30 vulnerable and shielding local residents throughout lockdown. As well as calling for a weekly chat, the couple did shopping and undertook errands. “The need was phenomenal. Loneliness was a major issue for those living on their own. We were delighted to be able to help,” says Jackie.

The pub also ran a food takeaway and delivery service. Serving an average of 100 people a day, it was relied on by some elderly people for their hot meals. Jackie helped the village celebrate VE Day by launching packaged teas – 450 were snapped up. To meet demand, Jackie continued the teas for people to buy as cheering treats and gifts and delivered 75 free of charge to residents and staff at the local nursing home.

Any profits from food sales have been invested into the pub’s garden, adding a bar and a beautiful covered area seating 180 where people can meet up socially distanced and feel safe.

Messages of gratitude have poured into the pub. Says Jackie: “I didn’t realise the difference we were making.” 

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Related topics: Events & Occasions

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