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Jo Farrell

Windsor Castle, Marple Bridge

In a time where everything has been turned on its head, we wanted to catch up with some of our members up and down the country, to see how they are coping with their new normal, what the transition has been like for them, and what plans they have for the future of their pubs.

Our Head of Comms, Molly Davis, spoke to Jo Farrell, licensee of the Windsor Castle – where she has been a tenant for 11 years. Jo has been in the industry since the tender age of 12, where she started as a pot wash in a local pub. She always knew she wanted to run a pub of her own, and she always wanted it to be the Windsor Castle!

Robinsons Brewery

From the minute we started speaking, Jo could not emphasise enough the help and support that she has had from Robinsons. Even before the pandemic hit, Jo and her family had been through some tough times, with Jo’s husband being diagnosed with cancer last year.

Robinsons were absolutely fantastic – they couldn’t do enough for us. It was silly things that made the most difference. We run the pub with the help of our part-time staff, so when my husband was having chemo, Robinsons sent our dray out really early in the morning, so I could get my beer and then go and be with him when he was having his treatment.

“Everyone you speak to in every department is lovely – they really care about us and do what they can to make a difference. We sent a thank you letter to all of them.”

Along with the refurb of her pub last year, Jo has seen this support get even stronger as the nation headed into the current Coronavirus crisis.

“As soon as this all happened, they couldn’t have been more supportive – from sharing all of the info on how to access the grants, to setting up our tenants group “Pub Hub” on Facebook, we have felt looked after from every angle. Their communication has been excellent and the Facebook group has meant we can all support each other – we’ve become another community. Long term licensees can support the younger ones who haven’t been doing this as long.”

“They have cancelled our rent, are taking the beer back and stopped all loans repayments, etc. We honestly couldn’t have asked for more from a pub company.”

Takeaway & Delivery

With Jo’s husband being in remission, her first priority is keeping him safe, so they have decided to let street food takeaway businesses trade from the front of the pub. Wanting to give something more back, Jo decided that the stock of crisps they had in the pub would be put to better use being donated to NHS workers as a small help to keep them going, rather than being written off as waste when they eventually went out of date.

As the hub of the local community, she put a call out on social media to locals who wanted to add anything to that donation and people left chocolate and other treats in the pub’s smoking shelter to be collected and given to the local hospital.

The new “normal”

Like so many other licensees, Jo works long hours, but thrives on the busy routine that she has. I asked her how the change has affected her personally.

“I really miss the routine that having a pub gives me. I like to clean the pub myself as I take a sense of pride in how it looks. I have a lovely girl in to help me on a Saturday usually after our busy Friday nights with live music, but other than that, I do it myself.

“I really miss the thrill of going to open up when you have a pristine pub that people come to visit. I miss my customers too – everyone looks after each other here. We are like another family. If one of my old boys ever has a problem, one of the roofing lads will help them out. We’re all really close.

“We sadly had to have our dog put down last year and some of our regulars clubbed together and bought us a puppy – that’s how close we all are!”

Positives

“We have had the kids drawing rainbows and sticking them in the windows of the pub. We’re not open, but we are still the centre of the community, and it’s nice for people to see the positivity. We are so lucky to have great hospitals nearby and we’ve run charity nights for Christie’s since my husband has been in remission.

“I have started a plan with other Robinson’s tenants to all host charity evenings when we finally get to open our doors again. We will all host fundraisers – there are about 20 of us so far who have signed up – and we will give Robinsons all of the money we raise collectively so that they can donate it all to the NHS. That way we can really show them our appreciation for all they have done for us at the brewery and they can make a big impact on our local hospitals.

“Personally, I’ve also had a bit of time to reflect which is an unexpected upside to this time. I’ve discovered Gogglebox – I don’t normally have time for the telly! I work such long hours, that the opportunity to slow down a little bit, despite the worry, is actually very welcome.”

BII Membership

I think it’s a tool that everyone should have. The access to the Solicitors helpline makes the membership fee worth it just for that. It’s something I’ve always had. I get the emails every week – it’s nice to know that help and support is there – especially at a time like this. It’s never been more important.

Planning and preparing for the future

“The time that we have now has allowed us to put a lot of effort into planning what to do next. We are usually so busy, we don’t get the chance to do all of the small jobs that need doing. I’ve seen more of my hoover the last three weeks than I’ve ever seen! We’ve been painting, stripping and staining all of the outdoor furniture and really making sure we make the most of the time we now have available to us.

“We want the pub to be perfect for reopening. The Pub Hub is so good as well – we talk about all sorts of things. I have found out about a lot of different gins that work well for other licensees. It’s given us a real push to try new things in the future.”

With no real idea of when the pub will be able to reopen, Jo is also using this time not just for practical changes to the pub, but also as a time to review the business and the costs that they have associated with it. The BII’s Marketplace is in ideal place for members to take advantage of professional help and expert support, often at discounted prices.

“We need to see what we could do to make our pub better. What new ideas there are, how we can cut our bills. As we live in the pub, we still need our utilities, but we are planning on using this time to see what deals we can get.

“Thankfully, we have a lot of our costs suspended -  from PRS, to Sky and obviously no rates for this year, but we still need to look after every penny to ensure we can survive.”

Everyone needs to stay inside for now, but we can’t wait until we are open again, to celebrate our wonderful NHS workers and everything they have done for us. Our thanks again to Robinsons for really being there for us – I can’t say it enough!

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