Opinion

‘Small steps, but good ones’ as pubs reopen for outdoor trading

By Piers Baker, the Sun Inn, Dedham and Church Street Tavern, Colchester, both Essex

- Last updated on GMT

Small steps: 'It is good to be back, in part, as it has allowed us to iron out any teething issues, a bit of breathing space on recruitment and train for 17 May'
Small steps: 'It is good to be back, in part, as it has allowed us to iron out any teething issues, a bit of breathing space on recruitment and train for 17 May'

Related tags: Food, Essex, Gastropub, Coronavirus, Staff

The first weekend went really well – we can seat around 75 in the garden and another 36 on the terrace and I'd say both were full from 2pm onwards.

It was great having people back as well as our staff, who really thrived on the interaction and giving customers service again. All customers were great, supportive of all rules and liked the improvements we've been working on. 

We chose not to do food because our garden is around 75m away from the kitchen and on testing we found food went cold by the time it had got to the garden. 

While we have a terrace just outside the kitchen that can seat up to 36, if booked as twos, it could be 18, and with the fear of cancellations and weather issues.

The garden space is quite awkward so the cost of putting tents up was extremely high and not a cost I felt I could recover from trading. 

If it was going to be for more than a month, I would reconsider but so far, it seems we are on track to reopen fully on Monday 17 May. So, we decided to open for drinks only Friday to Sunday, from midday until sundown. 

We already had a garden bar so set up and execution has been really seamless. Unfortunately, our licence and planning permission for the bar doesn't allow us to cook in the garden. 

Garden

Staffing challenge 

The biggest challenge we currently have is staffing. 

We've had some front of house staff resign – they've found jobs that give them more certainty and regular income.

While we would have had all staff back off furlough from Friday 14 May, it is too long for some to wait. 

Our kitchen teams are all complete and all but one management – our manager from Church Street Tavern in Colchester – resigned last week for a 9am to 5pm job. 

It is good to be back, in part, as it has allowed us to iron out any teething issues, a bit of breathing space on recruitment and train for Monday 17 May – and to work closer with our suppliers to ensure their job is a bit easier than last July. 

Small steps but good ones.

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