Landlords spending thousands of their own cash so pubs survive

Phil Cutter, landlord of The Murderers at Timberhill. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Phil Cutter, landlord of The Murderers at Timberhill. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Many publicans are spending thousands of pounds of their own money in order to stay afloat during the pandemic, it can be revealed.

The Black Horse Pub landlords, Pam and Terry Gillman. Picture: Sonya Duncan

The Black Horse Pub landlords, Pam and Terry Gillman. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

A survey by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has found that over 80pc of landlords have invested personal funds in pubs to survive.

Among those is Phil Cutter, landlord at The Murderers on Timberhill in Norwich, who has put in £6,000 of his own money into the pub during lockdown.

The Ribs of Beef on Wensum Street in Norwich. Photo: Ribs of Beef

The Ribs of Beef on Wensum Street in Norwich. Photo: Ribs of Beef - Credit: Archant

“It’s an unenviable position to be in.” he said, “My business partner and I have not taken any wages ourselves for the past three and a half months and on top of that we have both put our own funds into the business.”

“We made a conscious effort to pay all of our suppliers in order to keep the balance sheet clear.”

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As many pubs are gearing up to reopen on July 4, once lockdown restrictions have been lifted, Mr Cutter said he was unsure if he would reopen.

Figures from CAMRA show that 74pc of publicans thought that reasonable restrictions would likely have a 50pc or more of an impact on their turnover figures.

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It is for that reason Mr Cutter is undecided whether the pub will reopen next week over fears it could “lose more money being open than closed.”

He said: “I may sit back and see what happens in the first week or so to see if it is viable to reopen and go a visit city centre pubs and speak to other landlords.

“The problems comes when you’ve reached the limited capacity and tables are full as most of our trade comes from ‘vertical drinkers’ standing up and watching football or talking with their mates while drinking.”

Terry and Pam Gillman, who own The Black Horse in Thetford, have also invested their own money but will reopen in July once refurbishment work is complete.

Along with putting all of their savings into the pub, they have also spent money on “costly” social-distancing measures.

They include log cabins and a pergola which have been built outside as a direct result of coronavirus.

Mrs Gillman said: “It is chaotic trying to put everything in place. All of the measures we’ve put in place such as standalone hand sanitiser and PPE are costly.

“The log cabins and pergola were purely a result of coronavirus and would not have been built otherwise.”

“We’ve put in all our savings as we wanted to pay all our furloughed staff the extra 20pc so they got full wages.”

Like the 33pc of pubs surveyed by CAMRA the Gillmans have been offering takeout food during the pandemic.

However, they said they made no profit and the income “just kept our head above the water and paid the bills.”

Mr Gillman said: “We most certainly hope to survive and the next year will be difficult. But if we go down we’re going down with a fight.”

Stephen George, the owner of The King’s Head on Magdalen Street in Norwich which will reopen on July 4, has not spent his own money on the pub since the outbreak of coronavirus.

But he said he has taken out a government-backed loan which he does not intend to spend as a precaution.

Mr George said: “I can continue to pay my staff’s wages and it will not be used for that, but I took it out so I have money there if I ever need it.

“The government needs to do something to help the pub industry before the end of October, when the furlough scheme and grants will run out. If not for many pubs it will be like facing a cliff edge.”

For Matt Hunter, assistant manager at The Ribs of Beef on Wensum Street in Norwich, the greatest blessing has been the reduction of social-distancing from 2m to 1m.

He said: “That has been the most significant development on us and will potentially make a world of difference in terms of profit, although it is important everyone feels safe.

“It’s too early to say what impact the measures will have on turnover but we’re looking forward to coming back.”

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