What’s a Brit to do without their local pub? In his 17th-century diary, Samuel Pepys described the pub as "the heart of England". He wasn’t wrong. Even the name – public houses – refers to the very fact that they are a place where communities come together. The history of these homes away from home can be traced back to Roman times, but it was the Anglo-Saxons who transformed them into alehouses. We’ve been congregating in them ever since – until recently that is.
The spread of coronavirus has seen all our local drinking holes closed indefinitely. And yet, many of these establishments have continued to serve their communities in ever more creative ways. It's now up to pubs to come to us instead, and they are – offering everything from vegetable boxes to pints delivered in milk cartons. Here’s ten of the ways pubs have continued to be the cornerstone of our communities, even under lockdown.
The Fox & Duck, Hertfordshire
A village focal point
Award-winning gastro pub The Fox & Duck, Therfield has reinvented itself several times over since the coronavirus outbreak first hit the UK.
March 20 was the beginning of its takeaway delivery service for dinners on Fridays and Saturdays, having already closed its doors to in-house meals and drinks. They also began offering a 50 per cent discount for all NHS workers. Huge demand from surrounding villages culminated in a whopping 90 orders for Mother’s Day lunches. Landlord Ivan Titmuss even decided to remove his pub benches from the village green in front to deter ramblers and walkers from congregating around them, but by Monday March 23 he had to make the difficult decision to stop the takeaway service temporarily for the health of his staff and customers.
But it doesn’t end there! "I believe the pub should be a focal point of the village when it can be," Titmuss said. "I am offering other services, including vegetable and meat boxes, basic cleaning products and toilet rolls all supplied by my own catering suppliers." Titmuss has even started hosting live 'cookalong' webinars, to demonstrate how to cook the pub's popular burgers at home. thefoxandduck.co.uk
The Panton Arms, Anglesey
This charming pub in the tiny Welsh village of Pentraeth – located on the island of Anglesey – shut up shop to customers after Boris Johnson announced that bars and restaurants would be closed down. Prior to the announcement, the pub had already been doing takeaway pints – with bring-your-own containers – and Sunday roasts, but it has since added a pizza takeaway service too, to better serve self-isolating locals. The wood-fired pizzas are made in a pizza oven in the pub’s garden. facebook.com/ThePantonArms
The Sun Tavern, London
Deliveries by vintage car
This Bethnal Green pub, which opened in 1851 as The Sun Inn, has a long history behind it; for the first half of the 1900s, it was a popular hangout with the area’s boxing crowd, and even saw regular visits from the infamous Kray twins. It was refurbished in the Seventies, which sadly some of its original decor lost. Luckily enough remained to give the pub a thoroughly nostalgic feel when it was reopened in 2014. Being no stranger to change, it’s little surprise the pub is already adapting to the recent virus outbreak, in true east London style.
The Sun Tavern’s Umbrella Project Delivery Service was launched on March 18, and the venue transformed into a mini-factory, with staff kept on in order to help pack ‘Umbrella Highball’ cocktail kits and ‘Beer and a Bump’ packages of Irish whiskey and craft beer. That said, most staff have now been sent home for safety reasons. Likewise, deliveries were originally made in a slick black vintage car, by the owners themselves, but UPS have since taken over this part of proceedings. The spirit of the whole idea very much still remains. thesuntavern.co.uk
Kingham Plough, Oxfordshire
Fine food and local ingredients
Most pubs may be known as the place to go for a pint, but the Kingham Plough has made a name for itself as the spot to go for a fine dining experience too. Chef patron and Great British Menu winner, Emily Watkins, first put the pub on the foodie map, and recent owners Matt and Katie Beamish, have continued this tradition, putting their experience working with the likes of Raymond Blanc, Jamie Oliver and Fergus Henderson to good use. While a meal in the premises isn’t possible for the foreseeable future, a new takeaway menu and grocery box scheme has been launched for those living in the surrounding Cotswolds.
The pair are determined to keep their local suppliers afloat during the coronavirus crisis, and have been able to continue to support them with their zero-contact collect and delivery service. The pub's most popular classics are all available, along with beers and bottles of wine, and a weekly Grocery Produce Box. thekinghamplough.co.uk
The Crown, Norwich
Supporting the NHS
Bradley Richards and Trina Lake moved into The Crown pub in Costessey, near Norwich 18 months ago, and were left worried over the future of their business after it was announced all pubs were to be closed. Not ones to stay negative for long, they quickly set up a stall outside the pub premises to sell fresh produce to locals.
But after seeing an emotional plea online by an NHS nurse distressed by the panic-buying fuelled shortages at supermarkets, the pair decided to switch to delivering food to health workers. Initially, they moved their stall to outside the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, but have now moved to doing direct grocery deliveries to a wider network of hospital workers, with drop-offs either close to hospitals or their homes. facebook.com/TrinanBrad2018
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, Hertfordshire
A community supply point
St Alban’s Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is the oldest pub in the country, with a pub having existed on the site since the 8th century. The pub has played a key role in the local community for so long, there was never any question as to whether the team would be stepping up during this time. The building has been set up as a Pub Community Supply Point (PCSB), with the owners using their supply chains to get deliveries of local produce in for city residents to pick up. Even before they knew they would be getting 80 per cent of their wages from the government, ex-staff from the pub volunteered to help pull together the boxes, and even deliver them out to vulnerable people within the community. yeoldefightingcocks.co.uk
Three's A Crowd, Yorkshire
The town of Harrogate is proud of its local gastropub, and has been working hard to keep it going. Three’s A Crowd launched a community-based crowdfunding campaign to raise money to keep its staff employed, offering vouchers for drinks and meals in exchange for contributions. Like-for-like donations to the NHS and the elderly were also contributed by the pub, so that the support of their regulars could also be directed to the positive causes.
"We are in uncharted waters here,” said Three's A Crowd licensee, John Quinlan. “Who knows how long this will last and what the wider impact on the economy will be. We needed to do something proactive that would offer a positive contribution to the local community but also go some way towards raising the £20,000 per month that we need as a hospitality business to survive.” threes-a-crowd.co.uk
The Potting Shed, Wiltshire
Free ale for locals
The village of Crudwell is home to The Potting Shed, a sought-after Cotswold pub. Food critic Tom Parker Bowles even called it one of ‘the best pub lunches’ he ever had, and the interiors are a feat of open fires and sleek wood furnishings. The interiors may be off-limits now, but the pub lunches are thankfully still available for takeaway, with sweet sticky toffee puddings and crisp beer-battered fish and chips all on offer. Better still, on March 22 the pub gave out free ale to lift people’s spirits, with everyone bringing their own containers to the pub garden to be filled. thepottingshedpub.com
The Royal, Midlothian
Everything but fajitas and ice cream
This pub and hotel in the town of Penicuik was built in the 1790s on the site of an old inn, and has been used over the years as a community meeting place. This is a purpose that the pub ‘still holds true today’. When the building was forced to shut its doors, a takeaway and delivery service was set up instead, with The Royal’s full menu being available – with the exception of steak, fajitas and ice cream. The owners announced they would be stopping the delivery and takeout service for the time being on March 24, but as of April 1, a return of the home delivery service is planned. royalpenicuik.com
The Wheatsheaf, Berkshire
Sustainable pub grub
Chilton Foliat’s village pub, The Wheatsheaf, was awarded “Most Sustainable Business” by the SRA this year, in large thanks to its huge commitment to British produce. Local business and community has always been a key priority, and the recent virus outbreak hasn’t caused any of that to change. The pub is now providing a collection service for locals, which makes use of tables out the back for pick-up slots, with everything from high-quality ingredients to a beautiful menu of prepared meals from head chef, Ollie Hunter, the author behind 30 Easy Ways To Join The Food Revolution. Care boxes with fresh vegetables and essentials were also being sent out, but this has since been stopped so that the owners can ‘guarantee the amount of contact’. thewheatsheafchiltonfoliat.co.uk
The Woolpack, Suffolk
Sunday roasts for all
Dating back to the 1600s, this Ipswichian pub has always been a cosy spot for locals. While The Woolpack has been stymied in providing its traditional welcome to guests by the recent pub and restaurant ban, it has refused to be stopped from dishing out the most essential of British experiences: the Sunday roast. It’s hearty pub lunches and roast dinners – complete with all the trimmings – are now available for takeout and delivery. The latter has been completed even through the recent snow. Pints (is any Sunday roast complete without one?) are also being delivered – rather innovatively in milk cartons. woolpack-ipswich.co.uk
Have you noticed your own local initiatives with small businesses doing innovative, creative and kind things to adapt? Share your stories below or email [email protected] with pictures.