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Social distancing would make it ‘largely unworkable’ for Norfolk’s pubs

PUBLISHED: 18:34 30 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:34 30 May 2020

The Duck Inn, Stanhoe, which has been closed because of lockdwn  Picture: Ian Burt

The Duck Inn, Stanhoe, which has been closed because of lockdwn Picture: Ian Burt

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Its cosy bar and quaint dining rooms have made it a popular watering hole on Norfolk’s foodie coast.

The team at the Duck Inn, Stanhoe, who have been been furloughed Picture: The Duck InnThe team at the Duck Inn, Stanhoe, who have been been furloughed Picture: The Duck Inn

But owners and staff at an award winning gastro pub say social distancing could make it almost impossible for them to operate unless the rules are relaxed.

Ben and Sarah Handley, who run the Duck Inn at Stanhoe, near Burnham Market, had to furlough 30 staff and mothball their restaurant when lockdown kicked in.

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There are hints some pubs might be able to reopen in early July. But Sam Handley, general manager at the Duck, said the 2m rule would make it “largely unworkable”.

Andrew Waddison (left) and Sam Handley behind the empty bar at the Duck Inn at Stanhoe, near Burnham Market, during coronavirus lockdown  Picture: Chris BishopAndrew Waddison (left) and Sam Handley behind the empty bar at the Duck Inn at Stanhoe, near Burnham Market, during coronavirus lockdown Picture: Chris Bishop

“It would be impossible to work in the way we used to,” he said. “On a busy service we would have a minimum of two staff serving behind the bar but there isn’t 2m to pass each other.”

Mr Handley said there would have to be “wholesale changes” to the restaurant, where tables would have to be taken away to keep customers apart.

“We’d look at losing 50pc,” he said. “We don’t want to put anyone at risk, 2m would make it largely unworkable for us.”

The Duck’s owners have run the business for seven years, building a village pub off the beaten track into a gastro destination.

Ben and Sarah Handley, owners of The Duck Inn, Stanhoe  Picture: SubmittedBen and Sarah Handley, owners of The Duck Inn, Stanhoe Picture: Submitted

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“If we don’t get some kind of summer I don’t see how we’ll get through the winter,” said Mrs Handley. “We’d put up a fight, we wouldn’t walk away from it, but it’s a case of getting through it.”

If the two-metre guidance remains, just one-third of pubs could reopen their doors and many would face further financial misery and ruin, warned Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

Miss McClarkin, which represents 20,000 UK pubs, said the required distance should be reduced to one metre.

“It is an internationally recognised standard of one metre, used in France, Italy and Denmark, which allows some kind of normality,” she said.

Ben Handley, chef patron of the Duck Inn has been preparing meals for NHS workers during lockdown  Picture: Chris BishopBen Handley, chef patron of the Duck Inn has been preparing meals for NHS workers during lockdown Picture: Chris Bishop

Miss McClarkin said polling of BBPA members showed about 40pc could not survive until September if they remained closed.

“Pubs are not going to be the same,” she said. “It is still going to be an altered experience in your local, but we can all find our way back to the new normal while getting back to the pub.”


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