If there was a top ten of things that people have missed during the pandemic, going to the pub would doubtless score highly. At its best the pub is a communal hub, a refuge, a comforting home-from-home. It’s something that a thousand zoom calls, or tins from the supermarket, can never replicate. There’s a reason why, despite enormous social changes, the pub remains a staple of British life.
How will the pub cope post-pandemic, how will they adjust to social distancing measures and will things ever be the same again? As pubs begin to plan towards a gradual reopening, we caught up with Chris and Lynn, who run The Star in Mitford Street, to find out how they have been dealing with the hiatus caused by the pandemic and their plans for the future.
What were your thoughts when the pubs were ordered to close?
Shocked to be honest. We were expecting it, but not so soon. We had just received a delivery of a weeks worth of stock. The announcement came around tea time and we had to close by midnight. There was a communal, last day of school, kind of feeling around the bar. We reduced prices on all our bar top products and people did stay longer! It was all a bit surreal.
You started a food delivery service, what were the challenges involved in getting that set up and running?
No one knew what the impact of the virus would be. We wanted to offer a lifeline of healthier food for vulnerable people. It wasn’t a money-making exercise. We publicised it online and via a community leaflet that went to virtually every household in Filey.
It must have been enormously rewarding at times?
Yes, it was. We have met some lovely people. One man rings at the same time every week and orders exactly the same thing! We look forward to his call, he’s become a friend and a weekly staple.
Has there been an upside? Perhaps something within the pub you’ve changed that in normal times you might not have had time to do?
We’ve managed to get some decorating done that we would have had to close for. We also bought a new trailer in February for outdoor events. We’ve obviously missed a lot already, but we’ve used the downtime to kit the trailer out without buying all the wrong things! Hopefully, we will get to use it at a few events before the summer is over, but who knows.
What’s the one thing you’ve missed during the closure?
We have really missed the people, the social side, the banter. Despite having a bar at our disposal, we have actually drank a lot less. Some Saturday nights we’ve gone down into the bar, put on music TV and played a bit of pool. For the first two weeks it was strange. Quiet and a bit eery.
How are you going to react to social distancing measures involved in any reopening? What will be different?
The important thing is that people will feel comfortable and welcome when we reopen. We are having to lose a couple of tables, temporarily close the pool table and spread everyone through the bar and restaurant. There will be no standing at the bar and table service only. There will be a text ordering service, but obviously a member of staff will be walking around to take orders face-to-face as well. We’re lucky to have a large beer garden, but we do need to publicise it a bit more and to that end we’re putting a new sign up on the side of the pub. We’re extending the food service times, tightening up the menu and offering more light bites. We’ve had to do this because of the kitchen layout, we can’t have full staff on due to social distancing measures. The seafood offering will be important to us. Chris has a boat and whatever he catches will be on the menu. One night it might be mackerel, the next pollack, or cod, maybe lobster. Fresh off the boat. We’re looking forward to that!
We’ve already seen the closure of The Grapes, has the pandemic accelerated existing trends or is the pub trade really in uncharted waters?
Definitely in uncharted waters. To be honest it was already time fo the pub trade to change, the pandemic has accelerated that. We have to make people feel special. We can’t have five pubs all offering the same thing. At The Star we are proud to have predominately Yorkshire beers. Six real ales. There are plenty of places where you can have national and international brands, that’s fine, but we think it’s important to reflect where we are.
As Britain emerges from the lockdown, do you see an opportunity for Filey, and indeed The Star, to shine again?
It looks like staycationing will be big for the foreseeable. We are going to try and use of external space, a bit of lighting and heating can go a long way, but we have to be realistic, this is North Yorkshire! As for Filey, it’s a small town with big spaces and a big opportunity.