Northumberland licensee feels 'really lucky' not to lose trade

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

No trade lost: Licensee Sharon Herron feels "really lucky"
No trade lost: Licensee Sharon Herron feels "really lucky"

Related tags Northumberland Christmas Food Drink Finance coronavirus

City pubs were hit much harder than rural pubs over Christmas but rallying local communities was essential to survival, according to one licensee.

The Keel Row pub in Whitley Bay, Northumberland, did not lose trade over the festive period and licensee Sharon Herron attributed this to hard working staff, decorations, and events but most importantly the support of the local community.

Herron said: “I've just been really lucky, because I was listening to the news and they we're saying town centre pubs lost 50% or 80% of their trade and I thought well we’ve not.

“I was really lucky because I didn't have any staff that caught coronavirus, so I didn't have a problem staffing wise.”

However, a lot of meticulous planning and reassuring customers the pub was a safe environment went into ensuring no trade was lost.

Made customers Christmas 

From pyjama parties, to tribute acts, and Christmas lunch with Santa and his elves, the Keel Row welcomed all ages over Christmas and New Year.

Herron said: “I had a few emails saying ‘we're coming New Year's Eve but we're flying home to Spain. Is it well ventilated, are we overcrowded?’

“I only sold 60 tickets for the bar, so everybody had a table and they were all socially distanced. We had 40 in the restaurant for a three-course meal instead of 60 and the tables were spaced out.

“It worked out perfectly, because there was no queue at the bar, I had plenty of staff on and probably did the same amount intake.

“My son did the decorations, but everybody thought I'd hired somebody to do them, one woman said on New Year's Eve ‘this pub has made my Christmas this year.’”

For New Year’s Eve, the Keel Row hired a Dolly Parton tribute act, which cost £1,200, but Herron explained this was more than worth it as the tickets sold out almost immediately with customers on a waiting list for cancellations.

True community pub

Tickets were sold at £15 per person and included a hot beef or turkey roll with chips and gravy, which usually costs £6.85 on its own.

Herron added: “My GP is normally about 60% and we'll put a three-course meal on at about £30 but, like anybody's menu, there's a higher duty and there's a lower one but combined, it was about 60%. The pub had to pay £240 towards the [float] and made the rest of the money

“It’s really humbling, but we do our own thing, we put a lot of effort in and we were fortunate the people we had booked in didn't get covid.

“I would just say we're a true community pub, and everybody knows it, it’s just lovely.”

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