Pubs in tightly packed Portsmouth turn car parks into 'gardens' as outdoor service resumes
AFTER more than three months closed, pubs across Portsmouth are improvising to welcome back punters for outdoor service – as some warn they cannot survive another lockdown.
As part of the government’s road map out of lockdown, groups of up to six people or two households can now enjoy outdoor table service at pubs.
More than 100 pubs across Portsmouth and the surrounding towns are set to reopen, ranging from venues that are part of large pub chains to independent city boozers.
Karen Hughes, landlady of The Admiral Drake in North End since 1994, is looking forward to busy day after turning her pub’s car park into a service space for more than 100 customers.
The 52-year-old said: ‘I'm feeling confident. We have lots of bookings for Monday and weekends are looking good.
‘Let's hope for sunny weather and no rain over the next couple of months.
'Just a sense of normality would be brilliant. We're very positive that we're reopening – but we have to take it each day as it comes.’
The reopening comes after an ‘awful’ 12 months, which have seen the landlady throw away more than £10,000 worth of spoiled stock and shell out tens of thousands of pounds in overheads just to stay closed – a plight shared by pubs across the area.
She said: ‘This (lockdown) we have thrown away £4,000 worth of stock when we closed before Christmas – and we have only been able to claim back about £400 through a government scheme.’
Now the landlady joins other publicans in hoping that the most severe Covid-19 restrictions are behind us – as she fears her business could not survive another lockdown.
The mum-of-five said: 'From a personal perspective, we're opening and I'd rather we had a slower opening up and not close again.
‘I know a lot of small business couldn't take another lockdown - and we're one of them.
‘If we go through another lockdown, we won’t open again – we’ll go bust. I know we’re not the only one, there’s loads of people in the same situation.’
But pubs are still facing frustrating restrictions, such as guidelines that prohibit charging for live music but allow an ‘incidental’ performance without a charge or marketing.
Karen had hoped to put on live music on the first weekend after reopening.
She said: ‘The rule doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
‘I can have a band – as long as I don’t tell anyone about it.
‘I could have an ‘incidental’ band on and someone could text their mate, who then texts his mate – how do I stop hundreds of people turning up? I had planned to sell tickets so I knew when I was at my 100-person capacity.’
And many pubs that lack outdoor spaces or cannot afford to reopen with a reduced service will remain closed until indoor service resumes on May 17.
Landlords of closed pubs now face ‘uncharted waters’ as customers flock to those that can open, according to Giles Babb, co-landlord of The Greenwich in Southsea, which will reopen next month.
Giles said: ‘We are still getting a lot of interest. There are some people who are quiet nervous about coming back out at the moment.’
Tom Yaman, who runs the Duke of Devonshire in Albert Road, Southsea, was relieved to be able to open to punters today.
But he said the pub’s ‘small’ garden would only be able to cater for a handful of regulars – who were champing at the bit to get back to the Devonshire.
Tom said: ‘We’re very, very happy to be able to open. It’s been a long five months. We weren’t able to open in December, so we have been since November 4th. It’s been difficult financially. We had no income. It’s been really stressful.
‘We have got a garden but it’s not that big, so I’m not sure how successful this will be...It’s going to be challenging.’
Tom added he was able to finally bring all eight of his furloughed staff back and hoped that the won’t be a need to lockdown the country again.
‘I’m very excited, there’s light at the end of the tunnel now,’ he said. ‘We’re all very excited. We hope it will get better from now on.
‘We’re looking forward to May 17 when we can welcome people back inside the pub.’