Community raises £60k for pub-zoo as owner urges Government 'don't crush' sector

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: lockdown, coronavirus, Legislation, Family, Kent, Medway, South east, England

The owner of a pub which also boasts a zoo on-site has slammed the Government for not doing more to help the sector and said his business “wouldn’t be here” without its regulars.

The Fenn Bell Inn, in Medway, Kent, has received £60,000 in community donations to stay afloat – more than double it has received in Government grants (£25,000).

Pubgoers have raised money through crowdfunding pages​ and taken part in fundraising activities, from fancy dress events to running challenges. The pub has also received donations of food and equipment for the upkeep of the animals on-site.

Operator Andy Cowell said without introducing further financial support the Government was set to "crush and destroy an entire trade."

He explained: “We have 100 specialist animals on site, which are costing thousands and thousands of pounds a week to feed and keep warm. 

“We aren't in the situation a lot of places are where they can just shut the door and cut all the costs. Unfortunately a lot of the costs are still there. It's incredibly hard. We couldn't have lived on the £25,000, my electric bill is £60,000 a year just to keep the animals warm."

Fans of the pub's zoo have donated money and food to help look after the animals
Fans of the pub's zoo have donated money and food to help look after the animals

The business has lost £700,000 worth of income in the past year. “We’re not a bad business. We are a profitable business. We pay fortunes in tax but we have not received that to help us, to keep us going,” Cowell told The Morning Advertiser​. "It's a crazy situation to be in when we run something that's so popular."

He added: “We’ve been left begging local people to help us out, which they’ve done in spades. Without them we would not have a business."

The Government must extend furlough beyond the end of April to prevent lay offs and extend the reduction on VAT for the sector, Cowell urged. 

Crush and destroy

The licensee added: “I understand why we are locked down but don't lock us down and leave us to starve to death. That's what is happening, in my eyes.

“You can't just crush and destroy an entire trade and that is what is exactly happening. That will have a knock on effect.

“If you destroy this sector, you are un-employing an awful lot of people that are not going to be retraining to be doctors and pilots," he said.

The pub hopes to repay its supporters by being able to reopen and welcome visitors back in the summer. "We don't want to have to go and beg. We want to work," Cowell said.

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