Marking a troublesome week…

A blog in two parts as we discuss the current concern of womens safety, and mark 1 year since THAT address to the nation…

There have been two big news stories in the last week or so which relate to the hospitality industry, so we thought we would take time to say a few things about them. Apologies for the length of this post, but it is important we say these things.

Firstly, the terrible incident in South London with the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard, which has thrown into the spotlight the issue of women’s safety, and male attitudes towards women. We shouldn’t have to make statements about this, it shouldn’t be ‘a thing’, but sadly it is, and because we take our responsibility to society seriously we feel we need to make clear our stance. This is addressed to our female customers, but equally it applies to any of our patrons who may feel vulnerable regardless of gender.

Everybody is welcome at the Tuppenny. We will not tolerate any form of discriminatory behaviour towards staff or customers, or even people not present, based on race, religion, gender, sexuality, disability, political opinion (unless that is discriminatory or inflammatory) or for any other reason. If for any reason you do not feel safe on our premises or someone is harassing you, come and speak to us (Jamie, Linda, Ed or Hayley – photos are below) or one of our staff. We are aware of schemes like Ask For Angela, so if that is more comfortable for you that is great, we will understand and act accordingly. It is our priority that customers feel comfortable, relaxed and safe whilst they are with us. If you are on your own and maybe feeling at risk whilst waiting for your taxi or lift home at the end of the night, let us know and you can wait in the pub until it arrives whilst we clean down, rather than outside on the street. We are happy to call a licenced cab on your behalf if you are not sure of how to get home. It is never too much trouble, we want to see you again.

We purposefully try to cultivate a friendly, open atmosphere where you can be yourself in comfort and safety and relax on your own or with friends. We do not make judgements and expect the same from our customers. We pride ourselves on the bars atmosphere so much it got given a name – Tuppennyness. You can find out more about it on this post.

We don’t need undercover officers in our pubs and bars to ensure women and others feel safe – we can do that ourselves. We have been doing it ourselves. Existing licencing laws encourage this, we don’t need new legislation and systems. These existing laws, if enforced properly, should mean this isn’t an issue related to pubs and bars. Sadly, these laws are not always followed and where there are issues, Police and the courts should be using these laws to shut down irresponsible operators. The authorities would be better served making sure the streets were safe for people walking home on their own. This is where the problems really lie. Invest in Street Pastor teams, put more officers on the streets at night. Saying plain clothes officers will be in pubs is just a soundbite designed to appease panicky voters and isn’t a competent, thought out strategy.   

You all know the other story that affects us, so I’ll keep it brief. It is one year to the day that the bottom first fell out of our little beery world. One year since Prime Minister Johnson announced to the public at large not to go to pubs, kindly not adding any details as to how the pubs were supposed to survive without customers. In the course of a few minutes that early evening we went from having a lovely little business to having what almost mounted in essence to an illegal operation. It was days later that we were given reassurances of financial support. Great, tell that to our ulcers, we thought.

As we have documented, it has been a tough year for us. We haven’t made money. We have had a few government handouts, some of which were reasonable, many of which were an embarrassment,  and we haven’t had to pay business rates. As a wet led pub, that was it essentially. Eat Out to Help Out was not a direct benefit to us, the VAT cut did not affect us in the slightest as this too was on food, our staff didn’t qualify for furlough due to the intricacies of the system, and as I have written previously, the second furlough system meant businesses with zero income were still having to pay national insurance contributions and holiday pay. Then of course there was the whole December Debacle, where we could only open if we served food. We gave this a good crack, a really good crack. With no kitchen and no kitchen staff it put a massive strain on us logistically and morally – we were working all hours to keep open but not seeing a reward – the single household rule was an absolute business killer to add to the food issue. We took more money than we would have been given if we had stayed closed, although this isn’t saying much as the December grant on offer was less than two thousand pounds. But when you take costs and expenses out it is very marginal in terms of profit. This, in what is normally the busiest and most profitable month of the year.

Don’t get us wrong, we are super-grateful for the assistance we have already had. We have avoided going in to debt, and are still here itching to open again in May. But, this is not exclusively down to government support. Far from it in fact. No, the main reason we have made it this far is because of the support from you, our super-wonderful customers. You rallied round us in late March, into April and well beyond as we set up and found our way round being an online retailer and home delivery business. Some of you have been heroic champions, ordering week in and week out. It has not just kept us going finacially, it has been a massive moral boost, keeping us focused on the future and encouraging us to keep going and get creative.

We have actually enjoyed most of it. Jamie took to nattering on your doorsteps like a fish to water (it has been great coming to you and seeing where you live and what pyjamas you prefer).  I have found my inner IT nerd, setting up and managing the online shop and finally getting a website I was moderately happy with, Hayley has really had to stretch her contacts book to keep exciting beer coming in and has been able to indulge her inner artist with some of the gift packs and kits, and Linda has discovered a hitherto hidden talent as a chocolatier. We took the chance to expand our range to include bio-dynamic natural wines (the first place in Swindon to do so), got in a range of amazing coffee from a local roastery, created our first Tuppenny merch range (more coming on this too) and discovered we could do things like live gigs and quizzes without leaving home (this novelty soon wore off!).

So, we want to say a massive, heartfelt thank you to you all for the support. It means the world, as this bar is everything to us. You really cannot imagine how grateful we are for you taking us to your hearts like you have. But, it is not over yet. We still have a few tricky months to navigate, especially as we cannot open when others do. We still need your support right through, even when beer gardens are open. We promise it will be worth it, we have some great plans up our sleeves for the rest of the year to capitalise on all the work we have done over lockdowns. There will be more beer available including closer relationships with our local breweries (did someone say third cask line?), we are keeping going with the coffee (seriously, it’s amazing, try it) and plan to try again at daytime opening for all you home workers who want a change of scene or meeting space. We may even get in some unreal tea blends for you to drink in or buy for home. The shop will keep going with deliveries, and we will be better equipped for take-home drinks. We have more special gift set ideas on the way and our live events programme is filling up nicely already with things like The Shuffle to look forward to. There are some incredible artists booked in already and a load of new ideas and concepts coming too. Plus something very special that Ed and Jamie have been working on with a few friends….

So, as we mark the anniversary of the worst day in our bars life, can we ask you please to stick with us, keep those orders coming in (we still have new products in every week) and tell your friends and families about us. The more people who know what we do and get involved, the more secure we become and the greater the chance of us making it all the way to May. It isn’t over yet, but the fat lady is warming up…

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