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Lych Gate Tavern delighted to welcome back customers but struggling to cover costs

By Dayna Farrington | Wolverhampton | Dining out | Published:

"I would just urge local people to support the pubs. Customers need to believe in us that we are doing everything possible to make it a safe environment."

Dave Buck and Hayley Hall, who run the Lych Gate Tavern, in Wolverhampton

Hayley Hall and Dave Buck, both 53, who run the Lych Gate Tavern, in Queen Square, Wolverhampton, say their first week of opening after the easing of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions has been "quiet" – and the amount they are making is not covering the costs of running and staffing the pub for the week.

Hayley says she believes the hype of 'Super Saturday' actually scared people off from visiting their local – and have moved to reassure people they are safe to visit and asked people to support the pubs as they adjust to the new changes imposed.

The Lych Gate Tavern reopened to customers on Saturday, July 4.

Dave Buck and Hayley Hall, who run the Lych Gate Tavern, in Wolverhampton, have increased the cleaning of the pub to adhere to guidelines

Ms Hall said: "It has not so much been a busy first week, it is that we are working extremely long hours. Despite bringing in more staff to following the guidelines, extra sanitisation and stuff like that, we have to be on site all the time and unfortunately the income that is coming in at the moment, isn't covering costs. If we are lucky, it is about 30 per cent.

"Saturday was a lot quieter than anticipated, we thought with the media making it out to be 'Super Saturday'. Looking back at it and reviewing, I think that actually scared a lot of people off – and made them very anxious about coming out. But it wasn't the mad rush that everyone anticipated. With the Wolves playing as well we thought it might be busy as well, but it wasn't.

"We had an initial run at the beginning, we had a queue outside but that was handled quite quickly and efficiently. The rest of the day was steady, it wasn't anything to get excited about. Come 4.30pm we had five people in the pub, if that – and for a Saturday, that is unheard of. But we had crewed up the pub to make sure everybody was being looked after safely, but then we were overstaffed really.

"Sunday in terms of take was like a normal Sunday, but in terms of people it wasn't. We are doing track and trace so we probably had 28 people in the pub all day, but they were spending, they were supporting the pub which we were very grateful for – so the take was like a normal Sunday. But the rest of this week so far has been very, very slow. Come 8pm there is no one in the pub, between 6pm and 8pm, there's usually two to three people in the pub. It is extremely slow, and so far this week we haven't covered staff costs at all.

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Hayley Hall, licensee and manager of the Lych Gate Tavern, cleans one of the new table screens

"It is very concerning for us. But we sort of get it. People are very worried about coming out."

New measures have been imposed at the Lych Gate Tavern to allow for social distancing and keeping staff and customers safe, including enhanced cleaning, track and trace and table service.

Hayley said: "All I will say is from the Lych Gate point of view, we have done everything possible that coming in to the pub is as safe as possible. Everything is very clean, it is cleaned on a regular basis, we have a cleaning regime which we follow to the letter.

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"Coming into the pub we are doing track and trace, but it is very simple – just a name and number. Those details are kept securely in the safe and shredded after 21 days. Everyone has kept as safe as possible, all staff follow a cleaning regime in themselves in terms of hand washing and sanitising.

"But we don't want the Lych Gate to look any different, so there's no red and white tape anywhere, so when you come in it still looks the same but we are keeping to social distancing. We don't want the pub to look any different, the only difference is it is now table service. We want people to feel special, you get waited on at the table which is unheard of. We bring the drinks to you.

Dave Buck, manager of the Lych Gate Tavern, pulls a pint

"But in terms of coming into the pub, it doesn't look any different just got a slightly different feel to it. But we want people to feel safe, but we understand that people feel very cautious and we get that, we do get that. We know it will get better, and hopefully it will get better soon, hopefully sooner rather than later. It is just about people being safe.

"There's been some people who can't get used to the new, like walking about the pub, not coming up to the bar. A lot of the older guys are used to coming up to the bar and ordering their drinks, and they forget sometimes. But we haven't had anyone kicking off about it. It's just people forgetting, that's the way they have always done it. We haven't had anyone kicking off, 'oh I'm not coming in because you can't do this and that'."

Hayley and Dave have urged people in Wolverhampton to support the pubs in the city centre to help them through the crisis – but Hayley said she understands why people have concerns about venturing out to their local.

Hayley added: "It is safe – we are doing everything we can to help them feel safe. We want them to come in and enjoy a pint – we know that they have missed it. But we understand, with some people it is just going to take time. People have enjoyed seeing each other again, people they used to drink with and they can do it at a safe distance – but still enjoy the pub atmosphere, and that pub atmosphere is still there.

Dave Buck and Hayley Hall, who run the Lych Gate Tavern, in Wolverhampton

"I would just urge local people to supporting the pubs, especially in Wolverhampton, There's not many people living in the city centre, they all have to come in to support all the pubs. It is not just about the Lych Gate, it is about all the pubs in the city. We just need them to support all of us. I know we are all suffering, not just the Lych Gate. Customers need to believe in us that we are doing everything possible to make it a safe environment.

"It is good to be open again after so long, but these are things we have to do to make sure people are safe. The virus is going to be with us for a while we think, but as long as people are sensible and do these things, we will get through and be better for it. What is the saying, when life throws you lemons make lemonade."

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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