One such pub is the Tipsy Fox in Southwater, West Sussex, which has scheduled its first ‘blackout’ evening for Saturday 19 November.
Licensee Andrew Keeley said, while the pub was currently in a fixed contract, he had been quoted up to 10 times more in energy costs upon renewal, which, as well offering a “quirky” experience for customers, was a contributing factor in deciding to host the event.
Keeley explained the kitchen would operate as usual with power but the whole front of house would run without electricity during the event, which has already seen 70% of spaces booked, with acoustic music and even handwritten receipts in place.
Furthermore, the operator stated while he has spent some £150 on candles and accessories for the evening so far, he hoped offering customers something different would pay off.
Point of difference
He said: “More and more, you have to give people a reason to come out and visit the pub, it's not just finish work, let's go and spend some money, you’ve got to give them reasons and value to spending money that is more difficult to earn these days.
“That's a big driver for us, finding a point of difference, [and] finding ways to be smarter in how we operate.”
Furthermore, Keeley added if the event garnered enough traction, the pub would consider hosting regular ‘blackout’ evenings.
This comes as earlier this week National Grid chief executive John Pettigrew announced the UK could face planned blackouts on weekdays between 4pm and 7pm during Winter, forcing pubs to plan for events like this if they haven’t already.
However, some licensees expressed concerns regarding operating pubs using candlelight, be it for novelty or necessity, as this could pose health and safety risks.
Licensee of the Tamworth Tap and brewery George Greenway said: “It's all well and good having candles, but then you've got huge health and safety implications.
Paying off dividends
“You probably get a letter from the insurance company saying, ‘we can't insure you while there's no power and you're not insured against fire’, you can see the insurance companies jumping on that one to indemnify themselves.”
Despite some safety issues to consider, on top of the potential to drive footfall, utilising events such as ‘blackout’ nights to push for sustainability in the on-trade puts pubs in a good position, according to licensee of the Riverside pub at Aymestrey, Herefordshire, Andy Link.
Link, who has been pushing sustainability across the board in pubs for the past few years, said: “We were doing it from the environmentally conscious point of view, but now cutting our energy usage and moving to a more energy efficient businesses is paying off dividends.
“We've been future proofing the business with extra insulation, [which] has positioned us well, we've got a 16th century building that actually is relatively good at keeping the temperature in now.
“We’ve even started to shut all the curtains in the early evenings as the guests are arriving, which back in the day, you wouldn't have done something like that, but now it creates this cosy atmosphere where you've got candles, lit fires and the curtains are drawn. People love it.
“I'm hoping, the sustainability side of it is here to stay in. It's going to be at the forefront for all pubs.”