Punters urged to support their locals as pubs get ready to reopen in Portsmouth
IT’S all hands to the pumps as punters are urged to show their support for their local pubs.
As Covid-19 restrictions are eased via the government’s roadmap, we can all once again enjoy a pint with our friends, play a game of darts and spend leftover beer money on the fruit machine.
For independent pub owners it has been a rough year, with practically no income for more than 12 months – and while those with a beer garden have been open for a few weeks, those without have been left on the sidelines.
One such venue is the Raven Pub in Bedford Street, Southsea, where the beer garden was too small for the pub to reopen.
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Landlord Tony Wingfield said: ‘We haven’t been open whatsoever. It’s been pretty bad for us because we’ve barely worked.
‘I’ve been here for 29 years and never had so much time out of work in all my life, so reopening is really exciting.
‘A lot of our customers have been coming here their whole lives, so we’ve missed them terribly. Some of them have come by the window for a chat and that’s been nice, but it pales in comparison to a proper chat face-to-face over the bar.’
Tony says he has used the lockdown period to carry out some renovations – including light fixings and redecorating – and explained how he had been going into the pub ‘basically every day’ to do a few hours’ work on the pub.
He certainly isn’t alone in taking that opportunity.
Garry and Sue Disdle took over the Sirloin of Beef in Highland Road, Eastney, in February.
Monday will be their first day ‘on the job’ as they welcome punters for the very first time, having previously run The Olive Leaf on Hayling Island.
Garry said: ‘It is hugely exciting; there are some nerves about being in a new pub but overall we’re really looking forward to it.
‘People haven’t necessarily missed drinking because you can do that at home – but it’s the social side, spending time with friends and family, that has been lacking.
‘We can’t wait to meet the new regulars and see some familiar faces as well.’
As part of the refurbishment work, Garry and Sue have repainted the pub’s exterior.
Garry is urging Portsmouth locals to support their independent pubs rather than the big chains.
He said: ‘Because we came here during the lockdown, we didn’t qualify for any government grants – so it’s been four months without any money coming in.
‘Your local pubs desperately need your support in the coming weeks, more so than the big chains.
‘We were all hit really hard by the pandemic, so please help us get back on our feet.’
Even pubs that have been open for outdoor custom are expecting a hectic few weeks, now that indoor visitors are permitted.
At the George and Dragon in Kingston Road, landlord Vladimir Nasadovich says punters have missed the sports events.
He said: ‘A lot of my customers want to watch Sky Sports, so I’m looking forward to having that back on indoors – and having people play pool again.
‘It has been tough for everybody in the past year, we’ve really struggled and so have been waiting for this day for a very long time.
‘There have been times when we’ve been worried whether we would even reopen at all, so I’m very excited to unlock the doors.
‘The more faces we see on Monday and the coming weeks, the better.
‘Pubs really need people’s support after the year we’ve had – especially the local ones.’
When outdoor dining restrictions eased in April, The News estimated that roughly 27,500 pints were poured in Portsmouth during the first week.
With a greater capacity due to larger indoor spaces, landlords will be hopeful that the coming week will follow much the same.
Across Portsmouth Harbour, landlord of The Foresters Arms in Gosport, Rob Hylands, is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the next few weeks.
But, he added, this is a crucial time for pubs across the region due to increased staff and fewer customers.
‘I suppose it’s something that isn’t really thought about logistically,’ he said.
‘But on a normal busy day we would simply have one person behind the bar, pouring drinks – but that has all changed now.
‘Instead we now have two or three people in at a time. That’s because we have to do table service, and make sure everyone is using the NHS app, or jotting down their details for us, as well as working to keep everything clean.’
Alongside increased operational costs to adhere to government restrictions, pubs faced tremendous losses at the end of last year as thousands of pints were poured down the drain due to the alcohol takeaway ban.
Landlords have also expressed concerns about the supply of alcohol, with big-names such as Heineken struggling to get enough barrels to meet demand.
Rob is hopeful that the government roadmap is a one-way street, but acknowledged that there could be some delays to the government’s proposals.
The Indian variant has caused a degree of uncertainty in Westminster, with it expected to become the dominant strain in the UK and scientists admitting that the vaccine is less effective against it.
The Gosport landlord said: ‘At the moment the government doesn’t sound too optimistic, so we can’t be either. I think we will actually be in the recovery process for a bit longer than initially planned.
‘We’ve had people outside for a couple of weeks but it simply doesn’t compare to having people in the actual pub.
‘The bottom line is that even before the pandemic there were pubs struggling to get by, so please go and support your local if you can.’
In Fareham, Steve Bull, owner of West Street Alehouse, in West Street, said he was looking forward to welcoming customers into his micropub once again.
The pub opened in June 2019 and has spent more time in lockdown than it did trading.
Steve, who opened the venue with his wife Katherine, said the past year had been difficult but thanked his loyal customers for supporting them.
Not only has the couple had to contend with the challenges of running a new business and operating throughout the pandemic, they also welcomed their first child – baby Thorbjorn was born on December 30.
Steve said: ‘We have got such a loyal customer base and they have supported us through lockdown as we did a delivery and collection service.
‘I hope there will be no more lockdowns. In the short term we have had a lot of people booking tables although the weather has not been on our side.
‘However our customers have been coming and sitting in waterproofs with umbrellas, we couldn’t have got through it without them.
‘It was heart-warming as people could have gone anywhere but they have been coming to us. It has made all the difference.’