How has 2020 changed people and pubs?

‘Everyone knew what they had, they just thought they’d never lose it’

By Martin Barnes, director, Uphouse pubs

- Last updated on GMT

Personal battle: 'the pub belongs to so many people, mainly it is the rightful property of the community around it'
Personal battle: 'the pub belongs to so many people, mainly it is the rightful property of the community around it'

Related tags: Pubco + head office, Finance, Coronavirus, Legislation

Martin Barnes of Cheshire-based operator Uphouse pubs, looks back on a ‘year of rapid change’ for the pub sector amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

At Uphouse Pubs, we have always been a company that embraces change, the world evolves extremely quickly, and our industry must keep pace with it. 

The rate of change this year has been extraordinary, and at times impossible to keep up with. Still, we are here in our little corner, fighting for our trade. 

For pubs, it’s been a personal battle. As the team that runs the George & Dragon in Holmes Chapel and the Antrobus Arms in Northwich, we are merely the current custodians. 

The pub belongs to so many people, mainly it is the rightful property of the community around it. To them it is the place where life decisions are often made. Isolation abated. Olive branches exchanged. Romances ignited. Celebrations and commiserations marked. That’s what makes it personal. 

This option has been taken away for so many communities in 2020. 

While a dark cloud has been over the whole of the hospitality industry for 2020, there are some shimmers of light. Areas that hospitality clearly needs to be better at or supported better with. 

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Firstly, wellbeing of workers in hospitality is now front and centre. Our business is more determined to create a culture that is supportive and collaborative for our team. Giving them the tools and foundations to be able to do their job to the best of their ability. 

We have always had a working environment that encourages a feeling of safety similar to that of a family, but it needs to go beyond that. Support needs to be offered in a more professional way. Acceptance that it’s ok not to be ok and helping people through that. 

Secondly, industry recognition. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. For too long the hospitality industry has not been given the recognition it richly deserves. Not only as one of the biggest employers, or the contributions made from duty and taxable revenues, or even the regard within which it is held for our travel and tourism sector. It is so much more and applies from global right through to local economies. 

The truth is, everyone knew what they had, they just thought they’d never lose it. Now the recognition for how valuable pubs are to both our economy and wellbeing, the long-needed reform on rents and rates has a higher chance of coming to fruition. We can but hope. 

Our people have a new sense of resolve. New levels of determination. An excitement of a bright future ahead. It been a very sad and difficult year for so many in the pub trade. 

The past year has unquestionably been our worst ever year. Next year, from Easter onwards has the potential to be one of our best. When the final call is made, we’ll be ready, and the celebrations will be glorious. 

Related topics: Other operators

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