Julie Cooper, owner of the Last Post Remembrance Bar and Museum in Thornaby, North Yorkshire, said it was important for pubs to rally the support of their local community.
Cooper would like to reach out to more people in 2023, as footfall at the pub had dropped since the pandemic. “People are just not going out as much, so we need to keep the pubs alive and keep them working,” she said.
The cost-of-living crisis meant consumers were cutting down the evenings they went out and were spending less when they did go out.
Cooper believed the Government should give the “suffering” pub sector a bit more support, as taxes and VAT rates were currently very high.
She felt working people were being penalised as money earned went from one hand straight out of the other to paying bills and taxes.
Bleak future ahead
Without Government help, Cooper thought the future for hospitality looked “very bleak”. She predicted a lot of pubs would shut after Christmas. Indeed, The Morning Advertiser recently revealed up to one in three pubs could close over winter.
However, Cooper hoped she was one of the lucky ones, as her venue had something a little special.
She had upped the events offering at the pub and now runs three to four events per month to keep customers coming through the door. These have included summer parties, charity events and BBQs.
Cooper was aiming to also host funerals, birthday parties and weddings in the site’s function room, which was free to hire.
“We’re going to be more of an event space than your local pub,” she added, and was considering looking at changing opening hours to accommodate this.
The owner was also taking on a lot more work, as couldn’t afford to keep all her staff full time. Volunteers also helped out at events.
On Christmas Day, community members who could not pay for dinner would be given it for free at the Last Post. This event relied on donations from customers.
So far there were around 40 paying and non-paying guests expected for the big day. “It’s a lovely day,” Cooper continued, stating the event also combatted loneliness. “Everybody’s the same – they’re all celebrating Christmas together. It’s like a big family really,” she added.
The pub also worked with businesses like Greg’s and M&S, who provided surplus food to give to the community.
Cooper advised pubs to try and get this support from the community. “They’ve got to support the local if they want to keep it, otherwise we'll lose it,” she said, “and that’s another sad, empty building in another town.
“Good luck to all the pub trade. Let’s just hope they’re all on the up. They’ve just got to stick it out, I suppose. Things will get better.”