Communities and vulnerable supported through pandemic by ‘pub heroes’

April 2020

Since the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown last month, hundreds of pubs have stepped up to help their customers, elderly and other vulnerable people, NHS and key workers and local charities.

Despite the uncertain future faced by many pubs about when they might reopen, and how social distancing regulations may impact their business, licensees are ‘pivoting’ to offer a range of food and drink for local people, preparing and delivering hot meals to vulnerable people and providing social and emotional support with online quizzes, chats and music gigs.

Des O’Flanagan, co-founder of PubAid, the organisation that highlights pubs as a force for good in their communities, said: “The pandemic has been the biggest challenge our industry has faced, but licensees have shown huge resourcefulness in transforming their businesses overnight to serve the needs of their community in the ‘new normal’.

“Pubs have been at the heart of their communities for centuries, and the last few weeks have demonstrated just what a vital role they play: the support they are offering to local people, particularly those who can’t leave home, is invaluable, and is frequently done for no gain, just a desire to help.

“When lockdown is lifted, let’s hope that these wonderful licensees are rewarded by the ongoing thanks, and custom, from the local residents they have supported.”

Community Pub Heroes

McMullen Brewery has been helping local NHS workers with a drive through, contactless service for fresh goods and groceries at its Hertford brewery. The service has been so popular that it has been rolled out to seven McMullen’s pubs across Hertfordshire, complementing the support that licensees have been offering their local communities. At The Hare in Harlow, the team cooked up 60 hot meals for staff at Princess Alexandra Hospital next to the pub, the Long Arm Short Arm in Welwyn is home delivering to elderly people, and the Dogs Head in Bishops Stortford collected fabric to make scrubs, donated to the local hospital.  One NHS customer said: “Amazing quality and service, I will be ordering more stunning fruit and veg next week. Thank you.”

The Strand in Exmouth, part of the Craft Union group, has created a foodbank at the pub to support the Friends in Need charity. Operators Doug, Kathleen & George have put a supermarket trolley in the pub garden so that people can leave food donations while complying with social distancing rules. Friends in Need looks after local families that have suffered abusive relationships.

The Crown in Costessey, near Norwich, has raised £1,000 for fresh fruit and veg boxes for local NHS staff.  The money will enable licensees Bradley Richards and Trina Lake to make up 100 boxes for Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, and complements their regular food deliveries to NHS staff,  made either close to hospitals or to their homes.  Additionally, a plea to regulars brought in enough toiletries to make up boxes for several local hospitals and care homes, providing daily necessities to vulnerable people.

The Crown and Anchor, Chesterfield has been holding daily online raffles to raise cash for the NHS. Currently they have raised £330, and are also running regular quizzes via Facebook. Elaine, who runs the Craft Union pub with Paul, has channelled her inner Mary Berry by giving baking lessons on Facebook, with her cake becoming a raffle prize that was luckily won by a regular a few days before her 50th birthday.

The Chequers in Aylesford is delivering 150 free meals a week to vulnerable, disabled and isolated OAPs in the local community. The service, funded by generous donations and a band of volunteers to deliver the meals, gives elderly people a hot meal and a friendly face checking on them – from a distance.  One message of thanks read: “The Chequers are stars! I’ve been so worried about my father since my mother was hospitalised, but they provide him with a fresh, hot meal, free and delivered to his door.”

The Post Office Inn in Plympton, Plymouth, organises a weekly online concert to raise funds for charities NHS Charities Together and local St Luke’s Hospice. Every Sunday evening, the pub’s operator Danny Jones is performing and streaming live gigs which can be viewed via the pub’s Facebook page – providing the local community with musical entertainment.

The Swan in Croydon has supported local street artist, Chris Shea – also known as State of the Art – to raise money for the NHS.  Chris has painted a series of art pieces across the city of his son watering a rainbow, in honour of the rainbow campaign of support and thanks to the NHS. The pub has continually promoted the campaign via its social channels, helping it to raise over £9,000 to date. Chris honoured The Swan by painting his 100th piece of work, known as rainbow boy, on the wall of the pub.

The Witton Chimes, a Craft Union pub in Northwich, Cheshire, is on a mission to raise funds for local charity Tiny Steps who provide sensory, soft play and a social café to support families. Last week, operator Adam Prestage and his team of regular customers raised £500 for the charity from the pub’s weekly online ‘Kinky Pinky’ virtual disco.




Hogs Back Brewery offers ‘Barbecue to You’ service

April 2020

Expanded home delivery to bring beer, burgers and bread to locals in lockdown

With the barbecue season upon us, Surrey-based Hogs Back Brewery is expanding its home delivery service to offer fresh bread and meat alongside its beers to the many people making the most of their gardens and outdoor spaces during lockdown.

Customers ordering beer from Hogs Back can now order a fresh meat pack – including barbecue staples burgers and sausages– from award-winning butcher Alf Turner, based in Aldershot, and a fresh bread basket from the family-run Good Taste bakery in Tongham. Hogs Back has also partnered with wine supplier Nectar Imports, enabling customers to order wines by the case as part of their delivery.

Alongside the expanded home delivery range, Hogs Back is also launching a 10% ‘refer a friend’ offer, which gives 10% off an order from new customers and £5 to the existing customer who signs them up. The discount is available to customers ordering from the online shop and via click and collect at the brewery.

Hogs Back Brewery owner Rupert Thompson said: “With the sun out and temperatures set to soar, everyone lucky enough to have a garden, terrace or balcony during lockdown will be dining al fresco. Our Barbecue to You service is a great way to source the barbecue essentials of beer, burgers and bread, delivered to your door in one click.

“In these challenging times, it makes sense for us to help other local businesses where we can, and we’re delighted to be expanding our service to deliver products from Good Taste and Alf Turner, who are both very much a part of our community.

“By choosing to buy fresh goods from local companies, customers can not only enjoy the best locally-produced food and drink, but also help these local businesses to weather the Covid-19 storm.  We’ll definitely raise a glass of brewery-fresh TEA to that!”

The Good Taste bread basket contains loaves of white and multi-seed bread, wholemeal and white rolls and a sweet tray bake, while the Alf Turner meat pack includes four steak burgers, traditional pork sausages, back bacon, diced chicken breast, diced steak and steak mince. The Nectar wines include two whites, two reds, a blush and a sparkling white.

Bread, meat and wine are available to customers also ordering beer from the Hogs Back range, which includes brewery-fresh TEA (Traditional English Ale) and Surrey Nirvana Session IPA, fresh for three days, as well as other draught, bottled and canned beers. Wine sales are by-the-case of six bottles, with no mixed cases available.

Hogs Back will home-deliver bread, meat and wine to customers living in selected postcodes roughly within a 15-mile radius of the brewery. Beer delivery charges are dependent on order value and distance, customers wanting to find out more, or place an order, should visit


Hogs Back Brewery implements social distanced ‘hop twiddling’ for healthy hop crop

April 2020

Hogs Back Brewery is carrying out the traditional, and essential, task of ‘twiddling’ the newly-emerging hop plants in its hop garden, while complying with social distancing rules.

Hop twiddling involves winding the hop plants round the strings that are pegged into the ground, and up the poles. It is a vital part of hop maintenance which is both time-sensitive and labour-intensive, so extra pairs of hands have been recruited from the brewer’s Tongham TEA Club of loyal local drinkers.

Volunteer hop twiddlers are being strictly limited in number – just four per session – and they are each given a section of the garden to work in, far apart from others.  Instruction is given from a social distance by hop garden manager Matthew King and two brewery tour guides, Bruce Cornford and Denise Gauntlet.  Each volunteer completes a four-hour session and takes away a container of brewery-fresh TEA as a reward for their labours.

Hogs Back Brewery owner Rupert Thompson said: “Thankfully, our hops have not gone into lockdown, in fact they have put on a growth spurt during the recent warm weather.  Hop twiddling helps the new plants to grow upwards to create a healthy crop for us to harvest later in the year and use in brewing our beers.

“Implementing social distancing for seven people in an 8.5-acre hop field hasn’t proved too difficult, and we know our volunteer twiddlers have enjoyed the opportunity to help maintain this year’s hops, while enjoying fresh air and physical exercise in our sunny hop garden.

“We face bigger challenges with some of the other events in our hop garden, including our Hop Blessing, which attracted 200 people last May, and our Hop Harvest Party, enjoyed by 2,000 guests last September.  Although there’s no real substitute for raising a glass of TEA in the company of friends, we’re looking at the potential for some virtual events, so that the local community can stay involved in the hop garden through lockdown.”

Volunteer hop twiddler Nigel Blake, from Send, said: “I really enjoyed my session in the Hogs Back hop garden. It was great to be out in the sunshine, and to be doing something useful to help a local business.”

Hogs Back has been quick to adapt to the Covid-19 lockdown. The brewer opened a Drive Through service at the brewery the day after social distancing measures were announced, allowing customers to buy beer without leaving their car. They are also offering a home delivery service on brewery-fresh draught beer, as well as bottles and cans.




Pubs continuing to offer physical and emotional support during lockdown

April 2020

More than three weeks since pubs closed their doors due to the Covid-19 outbreak, many are continuing to work tirelessly to support their local communities. The help takes many forms, from offering essential supplies to customers, to preparing hot meals for local homeless and other vulnerable people, as well as keeping regulars entertained and connected during isolation with online quizzes, music nights and more.

PubAid co-founder Des O’Flanagan said: “It is humbling to see how many licensees are putting people above profit and doing all they can to help their community, despite facing huge uncertainty themselves.

“Pubs have played a vital role at the heart of their communities for centuries, and during these difficult times, the support they are providing, particularly to vulnerable people, is just invaluable.  Let’s hope that one upside of the pandemic is that as many of these fantastic pubs as possible are able to come through the lockdown and emerge with the on-going recognition and support of their local communities.”

Community Pub Heroes

The Angel & Crown in Richmond is serving hot meals daily to more than 30 local homeless people. The pub, owned by Fuller’s and operated by Nick Botting, is making the meals available from 4-5 pm, seven days a week, to ensure that these most vulnerable members of the community receive one hot meal a day. Dishes are prepared by the pub chef and collected in full compliance with the Government’s social distancing guidelines. Local outreach organisation SPEAR is directing rough sleepers to the service.

Nick Botting said: “We’re pleased to be using our kitchen and talented chef to help some of the hardest-hit in the community, and expect demand to grow as word spreads about the service.”  Initially, the pub was using food in stock at lockdown, but is now reliant on donations, which are gratefully received at:

The Sugar Mill in Bourne, Lincolnshire, moved a planned fundraiser online and raised £270. The recently-refurbished pub kept its pledge to support Little Miracles, a charity which supports children with additional needs, and streamed its Disney Quiz via Facebook for customers, mainly families, who donated £1 to take part. Licensee Tom Bellis said: “We were delighted with the response, with more players than we expected, and the money raised will support a fantastic charity.”

The Ram Inn in Brundall, Norfolk, has raised £800 for its local hospital, by displaying rainbow art in its windows. The young daughter of a regular started the trend by asking for her ‘rainbow of hope’ to be pinned up, and since then the windows have been filled with more than 80 pictures.  Landlord Martin Burrekoven-Kalve said: “The pub is donating a pound for each rainbow, and local customers and groups have also pitched in. It’s such a cheering sight in these difficult times, people are stopping to take photos when out for their exercise.”  All money is going to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Surbiton pub The Antelope is cooking 200 hot meals a day, which are distributed to local vulnerable people. The initiative is being run with local charity Voices of Hope, which is co-ordinating the service.  James Morgan, co-owner of Big Smoke Brew Co, which runs The Antelope, said: “We are lucky to have the facilities to support people locally during these difficult times.  We’re making healthy meals for the elderly, low income, homeless and isolated, and with 30,000 vulnerable people in the Kingston area, demand will only increase as lockdown continues.”

A furloughed Stonegate general manager has turned his hand to making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.  Cee-Jay Williams, GM at The Junction Tap in Woking, and his friend Tim Charlesworth, are using 3D printers to make face mask clips after they were inspired by the story of a group in Italy who were adapting diving masks into protective gear.   Cee-Jay said: “We read online that the NHS had plenty of visors, but not enough clips for staff to use them. After a bit of trial and error, we’ve mastered the technique to print them, so we should be able to make a lot more clips – and fast. I hope we can make a difference for our amazing NHS workers and help them do their incredible work.”

The Gerard Arms in St Helens held a Facebook Live Festival earlier this month in aid of local Willowbrook Hospice and raised £513. Four live acts performed over four hours on the Saturday evening, with a further gig on the Sunday by regular favourite Olivia Parr. General manager at the Greene King pub, Mark Hayes said: “We were furloughed on the Monday after the Festival, so unfortunately our online music had to stop, but we certainly ended on a high, with nearly 7,000 followers across 45 countries and 60,000 interactions in the last week. And we raised money for a great local charity.”

The Railway Hotel in Saltash, Cornwall, is operating a Community Kitchen, providing free hot meals for those in need during lockdown. Licensees Neil, Gloria and Lewis Challen are preparing meals, which are being delivered with help from the local Saltash Lions Club. The pub team is also shopping for local people in self-isolation, and managed to raise £150 for Saltash Cadets from an online quiz and games night.

The Bluebell Inn in Desford, Leicestershire, has set up a shop to support the village, sourcing groceries and fresh produce through its suppliers.  Manager of the Everards pub, Michael Cosgrove said: “Many in the village fall into the vulnerable category and can’t shop in the big supermarkets, so they can collect from us, or we’ll deliver. Some days, the shop is keeping me busier than the pub did!” Michael is also putting on quiz nights, bingo and DJ events through Facebook Live, to keep his customers entertained and connected with their friends during lockdown.








Pubs help communities through lockdown

April 2020

As the nation’s pub lockdown ends its second week, pubs across the country continue to step up to help their local communities. Many of them have turned their businesses into village stores, offering vital supplies for collection or delivery, while others are providing hot meals to people in self-isolation.

PubAid co-founder Des O’Flanagan said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on pubs, as on all aspects of our society. However, thousands of licensees are focusing on the needs of their local community and doing whatever they can to help residents, particularly older and vulnerable people.

“Providing food and other essentials is part of this, but we know many pubs are also helping to keep communities connected through online quizzes, Facebook live events and some much-needed humour!  Let’s hope that these wonderful pubs are able to come through the next few months and reopen post-lockdown with even more support from their communities.”

Pub Community Heroes

Pub operator Brains had food worth £100,000 sitting in their 106 managed pubs as the lockdown started. So they decided to give it all away to local NHS and key workers, care homes, food banks and other worthy causes.  Their donations helped more than 40 groups across south and west Wales, including Cwmbran Fire Station, who took some of the food given away by local Brains pub The Blinkin Owl.  Brains chief executive Alistair Darby said: “We gave away everything that was going to go out of date while our pubs were closed – much better to have it used by those in need than let it go to waste.”

Licensee Rob Scahill has turned his pub, The Orange Tree in Baldock, Herts, into a community store, offering grocery, household and fresh fruit and veg for locals to buy between 4-7 every day – and a priority service for NHS and other key workers, who are able to reserve items and collect any time. The pub is also continuing with its popular quiz, running on Facebook every Tuesday evening with a promise to be “as normal –  in other words the Quizmaster is still crap and it’s probably not for young children”.

Scahill said: “All the items in the shop are being offered at cost plus 20% which goes to the Baldock Musicians Support Fund, a group I set up at the start of lockdown to help local musicians who will have no gigs or income for three months.” The fund has raised £1,200 so far.

The Vaults pub in Ruabon, Wrexham, has joined forces with the local NISA store and Age Concern to deliver food and other essentials to the most vulnerable in the community. Assistant manager Gareth Maybury said: “The delivery service has proved really popular and it’s been great to be a part of the community effort to help those in most need. We’re also taking donations here for Age Concern, people have been very generous.”

At the Rising Sun in Henley-on-Thames, licensee Kate Makin – who only took over in January –  says she is now running a ‘hub, not a pub’.  Fresh fruit and veg, meat, groceries and household items are available for collection or home delivery Tuesday through to Saturday, while chef Jordan is busily baking bread, making tasty pickles and jams for sale and trying out some new dishes for the pub’s post-lockdown menu.  The pub’s planned Easter Egg raffle draw will take place on Facebook Live.

The Bevy in Moulsecoomb, East Sussex, has become the hub for a meals on wheels service during lockdown. A team of volunteers at the community-run pub are cooking and delivering hot meals three times a week to older residents who were in the pub’s weekly lunch club, set up to provide companionship, activities and a hearty meal.  Helen Jones at the pub said: “A lot of these people are hard up, feeling very anxious and very isolated. We want people in the area to know that if you can’t get out of your house, you don’t have to go hungry. We’re expecting demand to grow as more people learn about the service.”

A group of licensees in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, have joined forces to help locals struggling during lockdown. The six pubs – The Fort, Anchor, Eagle Coaching Inn, Bruach, Doc Ferry’s and the Occidental – have launched a food bank to deliver food parcels, using a team of 60 volunteers. Most of the deliveries will be made on foot and the scheme is being restricted to a local area to make it manageable. Donations of £900 have already been received.

The Royal Oak in East Lavant near Chichester is running a free soup door-drop to anyone in the local area aged 70+. The drop takes place every day between 12.00 and 1.00 and ensures one hot dish to these people who are self-isolating. The pub is also offering a takeaway menu of pub classics and home essentials.

The Wellington Arms in Sandhurst has made its letting rooms available to a handful of nurses working locally, who were at risk of being made homeless when their previous landlords asked them to leave at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. Licensee Harry Demko said: “It was the obvious thing to do when we had empty rooms and we’re pleased to be able to help.”

Pubs Supporting Their Communities

March 2020

Des O’Flanagan, PubAid co-founder, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic may have closed pubs for now, but their support for their local communities remains undiminished as licensees up and down the country adapt to offer local people practical, social and emotional support to help them weather this unprecedented crisis.  If ever there were proof that pubs are a force for good in their communities, this is surely it!

When Mother’s Day became an early Covid-19 casualty, Brawns Den in Durham donated all the food they’d planned to serve families to local food banks.

In similar vein, The Cross Keys in Coleorton in Leicestershire delivered 50 lunches from pizzas to Sunday roasts to the community on Mother’s Day.

The Old White Bear in Keighley had taken 129 bookings for Mother’s Day but rather than let down their customers, they made all the meals available for takeway instead, and are continuing to operate a take-out service.

When The Falcon in Prudhoe, Northumberland, had to close its doors, it gave all its excess food to local residents.

The Myrtle Tavern in Leeds has stepped up to support the vulnerable in their local community, dropping off care packages to people self-isolating or unable to shop for themselves. Packages contain vital supplies – tea, milk, biscuits, toilet roll and a bottle of Guinness!

The Plough & Harrow in Leytonstone has donated soft drinks to the local hospital for staff to enjoy on shift, and alcoholic drinks for those who want to take them home. They have also donated to other key workers such as post workers and refuse collectors, and have set up a Facebook page encouraging other pubs to offer the same support for the NHS

Pedal power is delivering pub meals to residents in Addingham, Ilkley. Jon and Amy, licensees at The Swan in the village, have invested in a bike to bring their tasty pub meals, cooked from fresh, to local people.

Lesters in Margate has made its car park available only to NHS workers at the nearby hospital, who are also benefiting from the pub’s takeaway food service.  Licensee Barry is doing all he can to support the community, despite being himself in his 70s.

Licensee Carole at The Clifton Arms in Blackburn raised more than £400 from the pub’s community in just half an hour and bought fruit boxes from a local producer to be delivered to the NHS staff at the local hospital. In the last week, the pub also delivered over 40 essential boxes to those who were in isolation or unable to leave home.

The White Hart in Nettlebed near Henley has set up a shop in the pub, offering vital supplies to local residents, and are cooking a daily hot meal, ready for collection if ordered the day before. A poll on the Nettlebed Facebook asking residents if they wanted the shop to continue got 127 votes in favour – and none against! Good work by licensee Ted Docherty and his team of live-in staff who are working on a voluntary basis to serve the local community.

The aptly-named Who’d Have Thought It in St Dominick in Cornwall is offering takeway and home delivery to the local community, and donating £1 for every order to a newly- established food bank offering vital supplies to the vulnerable. Great community support from licensee Tracey Fleming and her team.

The Blue Ball in Braunston, Rutland, has been making up food boxes for the local community. Licensees Dom and Pip also set up a fund so that people can make a donation to purchase a box for those in financial hardship.

The Chestnut Group of 11 pubs in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex has adapted its offer with freshly-cooked meals available for collection and delivery, live pub quizzes, Q+A sessions with the pub chefs on social media and online breadmaking demos.  They’ve also opened shops at the Three Blackbirds near Newmarket and Globe Inn at Wells.

To help keep customers socially connected through the lockdown, The Fleece Inn, Skipton, has moved its weekly Tuesday Pub Quiz online, with quizzers able to see licensee Tim read out the questions.  And The Portsmouth Arms in Basingstoke is running two quizzes a day – one for children at 5.00 pm and one for adults at 8.00pm. Around 4,500 people tuned in on the first day!

At The Bull & Bush in Shepshed, Essex, licensees Laura and Nez have set up a Facebook group for their regulars to share quizzes, music and more.