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News

The View from Under the Bus

 

The news today announcing the 10pm curfew for pubs and bars, the Governments latest “finger-in-the-air” scheme to control the spread of Covid-19, initially came as another demoralising hammer-blow to us, losing us what on paper are nine of our often most profitable hours of trade. However, we realise it could have been worse for us and are thankful that, so far, we have not had another full lockdown imposed, something that, unless the treasury again harvested heavily from the magic money tree, could have more serious implications.

As a business that has gone over and above the guidelines to keep staff, customers, and the wider community safe, it is still a bitter pill to swallow. Back when we were able to reopen on 4th July, we read and re-read the Government guidelines, and followed them to the letter. The recommendations were adhered to, whether a legal requirement or not, no matter the financial implication on the business (table service costs more to implement than bar service, but we did it as we felt it was safer) and we stuck rigidly to them, fighting hard to make a go of a business with a newly regulated capacity 70% lower than pre-lockdown. When a lot of these recommendations became legal requirements a week ago, people acted like they were new, but to us, it has been the norm for months, perfectly illustrating the issue at hand as communication from Government has been confusing and seemingly based on nothing.

Our concern is rooted in a lack of understanding of “why?” Why will this measure help control the rising transmission of the virus? In my mind, all they needed to do was announce the other measures that were mentioned – fines for non-compliant business are long overdue for instance. Surely also, all pubs in town centres kicking out at the same time will prevent problems on the streets, and the early finish could encourage people to pile back to homes for late night parties with no measures being heeded. Keeping people in well-run bars and pubs that are monitored and controlled surely is a safer option?

Time and again this year, the hospitality industry has shown its expertise at keeping people safe and being “covid-secure”. Recent figures from Public Health England back this up with transmissions linked to hospitality settings sitting at just 4.3% of the total transmissions for institutions in England. Whilst this is higher than hospitals (2%) it is significantly lower than care homes (45%) and education (21%) and pertinently workplace transmissions (so offices, factories etc) at 18%. So, any improvements in cutting transmission rates from hospitality is going to be a drop in the ocean without improvements elsewhere. Yet, it is still pubs that are the soft target, thrown under the bus regardless of the lack of scientific data to back this up. Despite knowing the data Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking on Radio 4 at the end of last week, said “… we know that the vast majority of transmissions happen in social settings whether that’s in hospitality or in people’s own homes.” No Mr Hancock, it doesn’t, read your own departments data.

It smacks to me of cheap shots, of politicians trying to earn easy brownie points with the electorate and press as they see hospitality as “low hanging fruit”, an easy target. Yet hospitality is an industry that is regulated, has successfully been working within strict guidelines and continues to work with the government on track and trace. Healthcare apart, what other sectors can honestly claim that? Hancock said that “the last line of defence is full national action”. However, with much of the North West and North East already under curfew, two of our major cities heavily restricted and London under a self-imposed restriction on commuting, we are getting there in name only. This way though you can have an effect without having to say you have closed businesses and hence providing them with support they need.

It is, of course, crass to look at the financial implications of further mitigations when people are losing their lives, but these implications could well have a far longer reaching impact socially than Covid-19. According to The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), the economy faces a hit of £250 million a day if partial lockdowns reverse the increase in people going to pubs and restaurants and returning to work. It warned that GDP could fall by between 3 and 5% in the last three months of the year compared with the third quarter. According to the CEBR, 10pm curfews are also a risk to the economy, particularly in leisure and entertainment. It said there was “a potential £2 billion annual cost if curfew measures reach London”. Well, now they have.

There is no getting away from the fact that the Government has an almost impossible balance to strike between the health of the nation and that of the economy and with it the long-term health of the nation, but to get continued support from the sector it needs to be clearer in the reasoning behind some of its decisions and be more consistent in approach. We will keep fighting tooth and nail for this business, and to continue to provide you with the best drinks in town and a lovely space in which to relax and socialise in safety. We will keep on adapting and modify what we do to enable this. Much as Boris says; we are in this together and will get out of it together!

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News

How hard is it to follow a simple rule?

 

We are a long way into this lockdown thing now. It has been nigh on six months in fact. You would have thought we would be used to it and in control. But apparently not. Infection rates are climbing, there are localised breakouts, and a trip round town, day or night, illustrates how much people either don’t care or don’t understand. We should all appreciate what is going on by now, the planet is gripped in a pandemic, people are dying, and to help we stay apart as best we can, wash our hands and the surfaces we touch and wear masks over our mouth and nose to minimise airborne transfer. Simple.

Yet shops are filled with moronic idiots with no mask on, or they are wearing one round their chin or with their nose poking out. Yes, I get it, it gets hot and uncomfortable, trust me I know all about it, I am fat and hairy, but I manage, I realise that hospital or death is probably worse than 20 mins of discomfort. People are socialising in inappropriate groups and not understanding how far two metres actually is and worst of all, as far as I am concerned, there are businesses that seem to be flouting industry specific rules, whether through ignorance or, more likely, greed. By this, I specifically mean other bars and pubs, places that are obviously fuller than they should be, with people stood around instead of sitting, going to the bar, gathering in groups way bigger than six, blatantly not from the same social bubbles or households etc. Pubs that are having mass brawls and getting closed for the night by the police but opening the following day like nothing has happened.

This angers and confuses me. The information is easily available and is reported in the media frequently, so ignorance is not likely, which means it is greed that is making these places behave this way. They are coining it in as if nothing is going on whilst the majority of us in the trade toe the line and consequently watch our bank balances sliding towards red as our turnover crashes and our costs escalate (I have said it before, table service costs more to run yet you serve less people). In what way is this fair, and why the hell is nothing being done about it? Why are these operators still allowed to open?

One is a major company of course; whose arse of an owner donates millions to the Tory Party. His pubs could probably host evenings of human sacrifice to the devil and still be allowed to trade. But some of the others do not sit under this corporate safety umbrella, they are independent businesses run by what I can only guess are greedy individuals with no concern for the communities that they operate within. Yes, I understand that these places lack “Tuppennyness” so tend to act as magnets for morons and idiots, but they still have a responsibility to manage their customers. So, if you know people who go to these places, gently nudge them, and make them see the error of their ways. Let’s get people to support the businesses that are supporting our community by following guidelines and regulations, especially those local businesses that worked to keep things going through lockdown.

We all know the misbehaving businesses I am talking about, I don’t need to spell it out, and we should all be getting as angry about them as we are about the absolute tool in the supermarket coughing their way round with no mask, or the high ranking government advisor who sets policy to say one thing as he does the opposite. What we should not be doing is tarring an entire industry with their filthy brush. Most of us are doing it right, and suffering because we are. Blame needs to be apportioned where it is due, not broadly, and steps taken to keep us all safe. Councils and police need the power to be able to shut down operators who are flouting Covid guidelines. The last thing we all need is another complete lockdown because of greedy business owners and morons who cannot follow a simple guideline.

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Live Music News

Is Live Music Back?

 

The more alert of you will have noticed we recently snuck up a new event. An event that features some live music. Those of you with long memories will realise that this is auspicious as it will be our first live music since mid-March. However, do not get too excited in thinking this marks the long-awaited return of our live music programme, because it does not. This is just us scratching the itch, seeing how it works under current situations and checking to see what the demand is like.

I will attempt to explain. There is nothing more we would like than to launch back into a full line up. I had the year booked up right through to our summer break in August when Covid-19 shut things down in March. I also had a smattering of post August events scheduled too; the year was about 75% booked from about February. Of course, all the gigs from late March to the Shuffle (our normal break point) in July have had to be cancelled under government orders, and rightly so. I got brave in June and started filling in September onwards, because surely things will be better by then. Well, no, not so far. But, as of last weekend, indoor musical events were allowed again, albeit under the current distancing regulations. Hurrah you say! The music is back you say! But it is not.

Some venues are manfully attempting to get going again, and I applaud them. But these are venues that have no real choice. Places like Level III exist only for live music. They only open for gigs. Without them, they cease to have any relevance. That is not the case with us of course, we are first and foremost a bar. We can open without gigs, these are just a nice little side-line (an important one for us personally, but less so from a business perspective). So, we have not been claiming support for music venues to ensure the maximum possible could go to the places that really need it (like Level III here in Swindon, or The Exchange or Louisiana in Bristol or Moles in Bath etc), places that don’t have trade without gigs. I have written in the past about the Music Venue Trust (check that out here: https://thetuppenny.com/2020/05/11/the-tuppenny-lock-out-diary-02/) who have been doing incredible work raising the issue and working with government to solve it; and they are getting there. They have been instrumental in securing the recent funding packages, they have helped save venues like the Deaf Institute and Gorilla in Manchester from closing and so much more. Go and check them out and see what you can do to help.

But back to little old us. As I said, we have been observers in all this, we have the bar and some shop trade keeping us going, so have always felt others were more deserving (even when some musicians hosted an online gig with us as the official bar, so we received donations from the audience in lieu of them buying a pint, we gave all that money to the musicians playing). Which brings me to the point of this blog. We will not be leaping back in to doing gigs until some of the restrictions are lifted. Quite simply, this is because it is not financially viable for us to do it. Why, may you ask, how on earth can attracting extra people to the bar not be worth it? Well, in normal times you would be right in assuming this, it is worth it, very much worth it. However, with the reduced capacity, which reduces even more with the stage being set up, we simply cannot take enough money to pay the musicians.

Yes, you read that right; “pay the musicians”. Because that is what we do. For every show we have put on, we pay them a fee. It is their job. They are working. So, they should be fairly paid for this. We have a real issue with venues and events that do not offer payment to musicians, whether it is from the bar take or by charging for tickets. If you cannot afford the music, do not have it. It is not fair you are profiting from other people’s efforts. Therefore, it is for this reason that we are not going to be rushing in to putting gigs on. We would probably lose money if we did – unless the current gig capacity of about 30 people all decided to spend about £40 each over the bar, which is not all that realistic (go on – prove me wrong; come to the Jim Blair gig that is part of our Summer Blow-Out and hammer your debit card – I dare you, nay, I double dare you to! Make me look like a fool), then we do not cover everything we need to, and right now every penny counts. It is not even like we are making enough through the week to cover gig related losses, as I have mentioned in other blogs, as our capacity has gone down, we have had to increase staff costs.

So, I am left monitoring the booked gigs, gradually cancelling them as this all drags on. Will we be hosting live music again this year? I hope so, there is some brilliant stuff booked in towards Christmas, but I cannot see it. Live music will be back at some point. It is in our DNA. It just might not be for a little while. Which sucks.

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News

Don’t Forget – We still have the Tuppenny Shop & DeliverBrew

I just wanted to pen a quick reminder that even though full lockdown is (for the moment) over you can have your slice of the Tuppenny at home still as the shop is very much an ongoing thing, and something we are slowly developing.

Since we re-opened the bar we took the decision to treat the shop as a bit of a seperate entity instead of an extension of the bar. This means that we have dropped the prices in line with a pure retail offer to reflect the differences between the two sides of the business. This is the main, but not sole change with the shop. We still deliver, but only on a Friday now, in time for the weekend. You can also now do a click and collect type service – order your drinks online anytime, then collect from the bar during opening hours, any day! However, we have had to stop doing the pours of the guest beers as they just change too frequently to keep the shop updated. If you do want one of these you can still buy as a takeway in the bar. We do still do the 9 pint mini-kegs of our house beers and cider though and you can add a Tuppenny T Shirt or Tote Bag to your order too!

Demand has understandably dropped since re-opening, but please do think of us when you next want beers for home – we still have our BBQ friendly fridge packs of Renegade Lager and Detour Pale Ale. You will be supporting both a great local bar / shop and small independent brewers. Thats got to feel good, surely?

So, same great shop and service, but much better pricing! Winner winner beer for dinner!

Go find the shop at http://the-tuppenny.myshopify.com and fill your boots!

P.S. don’t tell the others I told you this, but if you are in the bar and want a take home, it is cheaper to do it as a click and collect (so you can order more, can’t you….!)