CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

It’s the glass half-full approach from pubs

Stuart Langley, owner of the Dartmouth Arms, explains the uncertainty facing pubs

17 May, 2020 — By Dartmouth Arms landlord Stuart Langley

The Dartmouth Arms is at 35 York Rise, NW5

OUR pub, the Dartmouth Arms, will now open every Friday and Saturday for takeaway drinks and snacks, and for collection of pre-ordered dinners and picnics.

It will be great to see people in the pub again – even if that can only be one customer at a time and at a safe distance. Without clear guidance from the government on when or how we might reopen, I guess we are doing exactly what the government wants us to – taking matters into our own hands and deciding for ourselves what to do next.

The uncertainty is hugely frustrating.

This week the government announced that some hospitality businesses may be able to open from July 4. In comparison to plans for hospitality sectors in other countries which locked down earlier, this seems optimistic. July is the start of the new rental quarter and the date will reassure many landlords that the government is on their side.

But our ability to open the pub and trade profitably will be reliant on the magic letter “R”, where London sits on the government’s five-level coronavirus alert system, and what distancing measures will be in place for community pubs like ours.

Instead of a clear route forward, we have a series of sliding scales, seemingly outside of anyone’s control, that give me no grounds for meaningful conversations with staff, suppliers or my landlord about our business going forward.

We are today exactly where we were when we were told to close our doors in March – waiting and hoping. We are of course appreciative of the support given to us so far. Furlough has been essential for our staff.

However, we’ve still not received the hospitality industry grant that (chancellor) Rishi Sunak announced almost eight weeks ago. Nor has our big high street bank been able to provide Coronavirus Business Interruption support or even an application form for a Bounce Back loan. Eventually I’m sure these things will come through, but it’s a daily battle.


SEE ALSO FIDDLER’S ELBOW FEARS FOR FUTURE AMID VIRUS CRISIS


Unsurprisingly, most support has come from our local community. A few weeks ago, we launched our Dartmouth Arms Reopening Fund, to help get the pub back up and running once we are allowed to restart trading.

We’ve been taking donations, raising money for NHS nurses, and selling tickets for dinners and events that will (hopefully) take place later this year.

The response has been terrific.

Take a look at our website if you want to give us a hand. Our focus for now, though, is on serving you food and drink for collection and takeaway. We’ll be opening the doors every Friday and Saturday, 3pm until 8pm. Hope to see you there!

 

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