How the Community Services Fund helped publicans grow their business during lockdown

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Serving the community: Harriet Aitchison with Pub is the Hub regional advisor Terry Stork in the pubs shop
Serving the community: Harriet Aitchison with Pub is the Hub regional advisor Terry Stork in the pubs shop

Related tags Village pub Social responsibility pub is the hub Suffolk

Some 20 new village stores were opened on pub premises during lockdown, according to Pub is the Hub.

Pubs have been hit hard over the past two years and many licensees have had to adapt their business dramatically.

Thanks to not-for-profit organisation Pub is The Hub and its Community Services Fund, 20 pubs across the country were able to evolve and run village stores alongside their usual business’ during lockdown, many of which have continued to do so post lockdown.

Pub is The Hub chief executive John Longden said: “Pubs and publicans rose to the challenge of helping others and as the pandemic hit, they were often at the forefront of support.  

Providing a lifeline

“With many rural communities being miles from the nearest supermarket, publicans stepped in to offer services, such as village stores, proving to be a lifeline for many locals, these village stores are continuing to support their communities and as well as offering essentials, provide a place for people to stop and chat.”

Setting up a business within a pub presented some challenges for the Queen in Brandeston, Suffolk with the cost of levelling their barn floor to make the area safe, buying extra fridges, and shelving totalling around £3,800 in refurbishments.

However, as the pub, whose nearest supermarket is 10 miles away, did not need to employ extra staff to run the shop and support from the community was immense, the investment paid off and the shop provided 15% of takings during the pandemic.

The Queen licensee Caroline Aitchison said: “During the first lockdown when we opened a temporary village shop, we also delivered essentials and vegetable box deliveries to local residents, our local store became a lifeline to villagers so we have made it a permanent service.” 

Supplying the shop with items from the kitchen and vice versa, meant the pub also massively reduced the amount of waste and has kept an ebbing flow between the shop and the pub while continuing to benefit the business and the community.  

The Queen head chef Harriet Aitchison said: “Gone are the days where local pubs can survive just as local pubs, especially if they're only offering drinks or a limited menu.

Supporting local people 

“The more you can get people in the more people will realise what it is that you offer, they will come into the shop and then they'll see the menu, they'll book a table. It's important to offer lots of different things to get all sorts of people coming in.”

With a proven track record of rural project development over the last 19 years, Pub is The Hub has worked with publicans to open shops, libraries, cafes, community cinemas, allotments, play areas and more.

Since 2013, the organisation has also been able to offer small grants through its Community Services Fund and has helped over 600 pubs diversify, with over 170 of these benefitting from help through the Community Services Fund.

Longden added: "The pandemic reinforced the importance and wider social value of publicans and pubs in their local areas with many publicans being the ones to provide vital services, resources and support for local people during lockdowns and beyond.”    

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