May 17th: How one independent pub chain is coping

The marquee in the garden of the Elephant and Castle.

The marquee in the garden of the Elephant and Castle. - Credit: The Elephant and Castle

Although the big pub chains were able to react robustly to the government guidelines when it came to al fresco dining, the smaller independents had more of a battle on their hands.

Farr Brew is an award-winning local micro-brewery which also now runs four pubs across Hertfordshire, including the very popular Elephant & Castle in Amwell - the grounds of which they completely transformed during the first lockdown into a children's paradise - the Red Cow in Harpenden and the Reading Rooms in Wheathampstead.

Matt Elvidge, who runs Farr Brew with Nick Farr, said the past few weeks of trading had been fantastic but cold: "Customers have all turned up for bookings and most have brought warm coats and blankets. On the whole they have been great and in good spirits, loving being out again and coming with a real sense of British blitz mentality."

He said the first couple of weeks were tough as the teams were not match-fit: "Covering 20,000-plus steps a day with a smile and positive attitude is hard with a mask on, especially when you’re doing 60-70 hour weeks. But our staff are amazing and never fail to be professional and positive at all times."

Although they were geared up for the cold, the heavy rain we have seen recently impacted on the use of garden tables, with the wet bank holiday a particularly tough blow.

However, Matt said across all of their pubs the turnout has been amazing.

"Customers are returning and telling all their friends. Our work on social media during lockdown is paying off and people are flocking to venues that make the effort to give a superior level of service and look after their customers."

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They are now preparing for the latest phase of the move out of lockdown restrictions next week: "May 17th will see some easing on pressure of our outdoor sheltered spaces as customers will choose inside when the weather is chilly at night.

"It will mean we will have additional covers inside so will have more customers to look after. Table spacing and Covid measures are still in place from last year so we will continue to jump through government guideline hoops to ensure customers are kept safe."