Pubs diversify to survive pandemic

Clinton Cawood

Clinton Cawood

04 November 2020

When the going gets tough, the tough pivot. Two village pubs have started providing essential local services to their communities 

The Red Lion Inn in Devon and The Rose & Crown in Dorset have both opened village shops with the help of Community Services Grants from Pub is the Hub. 

When lockdown began in March, family-run The Red Lion Inn, in Shobrooke, near Crediton, began offering a phone and online food ordering service for grocery boxes containing meat, fish and local produce. The team also set up a meals-on-wheels service for vulnerable customers. The £3,000 grant helped them to develop a dedicated room, with fitted shelves and a purpose-built counter, as well as the purchase of a fridge and freezer. 

‘After talking to local people we decided that the village needed a local shop as the nearest supermarket is a few miles away,’ said publican Jane Johnson. ‘The shop has been a lifeline to the village and is a much needed amenity.’

Natalie Dyson and Jane Johnson of the Red Lion
Natalie Dyson and Jane Johnson of the Red Lion

Meanwhile in Longburton, the team behind The Rose & Crown has set up a village shop, The Larder, in a shipping container in the pub’s car park, offering a range of products including bread, meat, fruit, vegetables and takeaway coffee. They also provided deliveries to those vulnerable and shielding. The pub has an outreach Post Office too, and offers breakfast and brunch from a converted rice trailer.

‘The village has an ageing population as well as a lot of young families who need the support of a local shop,’ said Becky Gibbons. ‘When we were in lockdown we realised that we really needed the shop in place to help those in the community.’

Not-for-profit organisation Pub is the Hub offers advice on rural services diversification or community ownership of pubs. It was initiated by the Prince of Wales in 2001, and has since worked with licensees to set up shops, libraries, post offices, community cinemas and more. It has been providing small grants since 2013.

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