Blackouts pose health and safety risks

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Another storm: using candles during blackouts potentially poses health and safety risks for pubs (Credit: Getty/Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd)
Another storm: using candles during blackouts potentially poses health and safety risks for pubs (Credit: Getty/Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd)

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Pubs are navigating health and safety risks to prepare for potentially “devastating” weekday evening blackouts.

This comes as, speaking at the Financial Times​ Energy Transition Summit earlier this week, National Grid chief executive John Pettigrew said Britain could face rolling blackouts weekdays between 4pm and 7pm this Winter, namely during January and February.

While Pettigrew added this was an unlikely scenario that would only happen if the temperature dropped particularly low and the nation’s gas supply became insufficient to keep up with demand, pubs have begun putting plans in place to cope with potential blackouts.

Licensee of the Riverside​ at Aymestrey, near Leominster, which was recently crowned the Great British Pub Awards (GBPA) 2022 Best Sustainable Pub, Andy Link, said the blackouts would be “extremely challenging” for pubs, especially as they are typically the “centre” of a lot of communities.

He said: “The pub is a centre of a lot of communities, if we can be there to support people, have the fires going, have some kind of basic offering with the equipment we potentially could use without any power.

“We're in two minds; do we shut our doors and potentially lose more money? We’ll have no power but we still have salaried staff that need paying.

“I know they're saying it's very unlikely, but we've had that before, so we're planning for both scenarios”.

Another storm 

Additionally, Link said pub operators had become “really good” at adapting and rising to a variety of challenges since the start of the pandemic and finding solutions to cope with blackouts would be no different.

The operator suggested the Riverside would pre prepare what he called “proper pub food”, such as sandwiches, sausages rolls or pickled quail’s eggs alongside putting bottled ales, lagers, ciders, wine, and soft drinks in big buckets of ice.

Link added: “We're entering another storm and we've got to work out a strategy.

“We need to sit down and come up with an extensive plan about what we're going to offer in terms of food drink, and hopefully, it will never need to be used.

“It's very difficult without power, but there is food you can prepare that can be ambient for a few hours.

“There's a lot of chefs out there, and front of house staff, that would rise to the challenge of saying actually, ‘what can we do’.”

Another option to help pubs navigate power outages could be investing in generators, something licensee of the Tamworth Tap​ and brewery, Tamworth, Staffordshire, George Greenway has done.

Greenway said he had recently invested in a 5.6-kilowatt generator for the venue, which recently won the Best Pub Garden award at the GBPA 2022 and an ample supply of candles.

Huge business loss 

However, the operator stated without the generator the pub would potentially have to close during the blackout periods and while using candles was a good alternative, it would take a lot of health and safety planning and put insurance​ policies at risk.

He said: “It's all well and good having candles, but then you've got huge health and safety implications.

“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.”

However, licensee of the GBPA 2022 Stonegate Pub of the Year, the Old Windmill​ in Coventry, Michelle Gilmour said even with plans in place, the blackouts could see the nation “losing more great British pubs”.

She said: “It would be devastating for us, they’re peak times for us, the after-work crowd and to just lose power for any amount of time is massively expensive.

“You can lose the rest of the night as well because [customers] are going to leave and they're not going to come back then, so you're talking about a huge amount of money, a huge business loss.

“As an industry, [we’re] massively struggling​ already. We can't take any more blows. I don't know what they can do but there must be alternatives.”

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