Pint in hand, the owner of the Kidderminster pub, Colin Faulkner, chats with a dozen of his regular customers.
Nothing extraordinary on one point, but because of the current coronavirus restrictions, this friendly gathering is via online group chat, not at the Station Inn.
It’s a good joke and good for morale – but it doesn’t pay the bills.
Since COVID-19 lockdown, some pub companies and breweries have decided to waive rent payments from tax collectors to help them get through this difficult period.
Unfortunately for Colin, the owners of his pub, Punch Pubs, were among those who chose to postpone these payments rather than cancel them.
“Pubs like the Station Inn are at the center of their communities, so it would be a real loss if we couldn’t get through this storm,” says Colin.
“My rent is around £ 600 a week, and deferring payments to get paid later could put me in debt that I really can’t afford.
“I put the staff on leave and asked for government support, but with no income for the foreseeable future, I’m really worried. “
Colin and his wife Trudy changed the fortune of the pub over the past eight and a half years.
They became part of the fabric of this community and, even in these difficult times, they tried to help others.
All perishable goods that cannot be sold have already been donated to food charities.
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And their importance has been recognized by their regulars.
One of them, Jennifer Wilson, launched a fundraising campaign to help the pub survive.
She says, “I don’t know many people who would do more than Colin and Trudy to help anyone, with the food bank, fundraisers, etc., and maybe this is our chance to tell them thank you and give them a little something to get them through this nightmare. ”
On the road to the pub lives another regular, Scott Joynes.
“They are the heart of this community,” he says.
“They have set up a football team, a rugby team, a cribbage club and a golf company. They also organize a summer fair and numerous charity events, as well as running a food bank. I really can’t imagine what we would do without. “
Andy Spencer, Managing Director of Punch Pubs & Co, said: “These are clearly difficult circumstances for everyone connected with the advertising industry, and at Punch we are fully committed to working in partnership with Colin to cross this very difficult time together.
“We continue to defer the collection of rents, insurance, fixture and accessory rentals and license fees for all of our pubs until further notice, and we are committed to working with each of our Publicans on an individual basis.
“It remains a fluid situation with uncertain deadlines, but Punch is there to support and work with all of our Publicans to ensure a long-term sustainable future for them and their businesses. “
As the duration of the restrictions is not yet clear, the time is of concern for thousands of pubs across the country, many of which were in difficulty even before the arrival of COVID-19.
Not everyone is fortunate to have a community ready to help.
Those who are not, fear that they have called “last orders” for the last time.