Pubs left to 'scrimp and save' following new restrictions

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

The Last Post: Owner Julie Cooper has lost 70% of her business since pubs reopened after lockdown
The Last Post: Owner Julie Cooper has lost 70% of her business since pubs reopened after lockdown

Related tags County durham Omicron Finance Social responsibility

Pubs have been left to scrimp and save wherever possible to the detriment of their customers in the aftermath of Omicron, according to a Stockton-on-Tees licensee.

The Last Post War Memorial Museum and Pub has suffered multiple big party cancellations and a drastic decrease in footfall in recent weeks, with between one and two customers on average coming through the doors from 11am to 6pm.

Owner of the Last Post, which won the Great British Pub Awards 2021 Community Hero award, Julie Cooper, said she has had to start preparing most of the food and cleaning the pub by herself, as well as run the business, in an effort to cut costs.

Cooper said: “Since we've reopened after lockdown, I've lost about 70% of my business.

“I've already lost one business because I couldn't afford to keep it open from day one of lockdown; the overheads were just so high; I couldn’t afford to sit on my footfall there.

Not fair on customers 

“I'm here from morning untill close, I do all the cleaning myself because I can't afford to get anybody, it’s just the way it is in at the moment.”

Recently the pub owner had to take lightbulbs out, minimise electrical use and turn off all heating at the pub for fear of losing her business.

She said: “The customers do complain about it being cold, but I have some blankets, it's not fair on them, but it's saving me money.

“I've got a trench dug out in the floor that used to have lights on it, it used to be the highlight of the bar but is no longer on because it eats a lot of electricity, I’ve taken lightbulbs off the walls but luckily, we've got a good bit of window space.

“It’s more the heat. I've got another room I only heat if somebody goes in it and that's where my pool and snooker table are so I would make some money in there, but I can't afford to keep the heat on.”

However, it’s not just the Last Post which is suffering under new restrictions and rising coronavirus cases, most of Coopers customers are elderly or veterans who consider the pub ‘home’.

Home from home

She explained the community have rallied round with monetary and food donations, but she didn’t know how the pub would be able to survive and continue offering free meals to the homeless or Bingo afternoons for the elderly, as well as the other things it does to serve the community.

Cooper said: “I get some donations because I've got the museum upstairs, people donate money towards the food and things for the veterans.

“It's sad we have to scrimp and save the way we do, because normally I would have a flourishing business and it's a home for a lot of people.

“If we have to close down again, it would be terrible. I lost some of the older regulars to coronavirus, it's sad and they lived on their own as well, this was their home.”

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