We’ve been incredibly impressed with the way so many Co-ops and Community businesses have managed through the Covid-19 situation and lockdown. The commitment to serving their communities and the resilience and ingenuity they have shown has been amazing!
We’ve spoken to a number of our clients about how they have managed – here we share the story of co-operative pub The Maybush Inn after speaking to Mark – do note that the photo shows happier, and more sociable, times which they look forward to getting back to soon!
What was your immediate challenge?
The first question really was, ‘what do we with all the beer’?
Luckily, we had support from the brewers we use who had managed to negotiate a tip away credit with the government, so we salvaged what we could, and we weren’t too badly affected by that. To be honest, in the few days before the lockdown, trade had dropped off as people were starting to be wary about venturing out to the pub – lockdown was almost a blessing as it made the situation clear. Then we decided to do takeaway beer, and we also helped out with the community scheme, we got home delivery of beer up and running, and got involved with local food box delivery – we helped publicise that and we’re now putting some of our beer in those boxes. A couple of our volunteers have been doing deliveries for them, so it’s been a real combined village effort
What did you do?
Other than serving takeaway beer we didn’t do much, so the big challenge was paying the mortgage – we didn’t have much income coming, which caused us a bit of a problem until we got the grant from the government.
What support did you access, including from CCF?
The main thing was the £10k rate relief. We run on 100% volunteers, so we don’t employ anyone – which meant we weren’t eligible for furlough support.
Co-op and Community Finance offered a capital holiday literally within a day of the first lockdown – bang! they were right on it! They were really good – we decided not to take that at the start as we weren’t sure how long it would go on for, and we want to pay our loans off as quickly as we can. In the second lockdown, we did accept that capital holiday on two of our three loans. It was so nice to be offered and not have to ask, the email from Ian just dropped into the inbox – here you go, we’re here to help, give us a call, let us know what we can do.
What are you doing now?
We’re thinking about food. We have a kitchen, but we don’t do much food – doing food brings a whole load of headaches – but we’re in tier two, so we are thinking about it. Today (this interview took place by phone on Wednesday 2nd December 2020, the day the second lockdown lifted we’re opening only for takeaway beer and then we’re going to discuss some food options with our volunteers – some volunteers are keen to put on some food, one day a week, and we’ve been discussing this back and forth for a while now.
What are your plans moving forward?
We’ve got three big issues to consider:
One. Do we carry on with just volunteers? This was becoming a struggle even before the lockdown, so we may have to revert to our original model which had some paid employment in it.
Two. Food. This was part of our original business plan five years ago and we’ve tried it in different ways, but we’ve not had a regular food offer for various reasons. So, once we get out of lockdown, we need to try it – we have someone prepared to do it, we should just give it a go.
Three. We bought the building next door in 2017, and we need to get the planning through to develop that. There’s very little room to sit and eat in the pub as it is now so we plan to connect that building to the pub and develop an eatery space on the ground floor of the connected part, with three flats – two, two bedroom, one, one bedroom – above.