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Project Reopen has been a success, say Black Country pub firms

By John Corser | Wolverhampton | Business | Published:

A week on from the great reawakening of pubs, breweries have declared the exercise a success.

A happy customer at The Wall Heath Tavern, one of many pubs to reopen last weekend

West Midlands-based Marston’s opened nearly 1,200 of its pubs last weekend and will be reopening more over the next two weeks.

Marston’s spokesman Jeremy Eaton said: “We were encouraged by the number of people keen to get back to their local.

"Customers were able to enjoy a pint of their favourite cask beer, including local favourite Banks’s, for the first time in three months as the breweries ramped up production and delivered to its pubs in time for last week’s reopening.

“Over the coming days and weeks we will also be re-opening pubs in Scotland on Wednesday and Wales on August 3 for the first time since the lockdown in March.”

However some pub owners, such as Hayley Hall and Dave Buck who run the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton city centre, have warned that they are struggling to get enough customers to cover their costs since reopening.

Pensnett-based Black Country Ales had planned to reopen all 37 of its pubs on Saturday, but the fresh lockdown in Leicester meant it could not open two in the city

Director Angus McMeeking said that all the rest had reopened successfully including its many pubs in the Black Country and Staffordshire and The Anvil Inn, Shifnal, and The Royal Oak in Shrewsbury.

“We are very pleased with the numbers that have turned out. Everyone has taken good notice of social distancing and the other new rules and regulations. We asked people to be sensible and it appears they have been,” he said.

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Mr McMeeking said brewing at the BCA brewery in Lower Gornal was started in anticipation of a July 4 reopening for the industry.

“We were delighted that happened and its so far, so good,” he added.

BCA has invested in 200 new outdoor tables to increase the outdoor space available for customers and opened a new beer garden at The Robin Hood in The Crescent, Willenhall, as part of the wider reopening.

“If we can get a good bit of sunshine now it will all be great,” said Mr McMeeking.

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Meanwhile Brierley Hill’s Bathams is to reopen its pubs on Monday.

The brewer had to start up brewing operations after the reopening date was announced by the Government. Beer started being delivered to its chain on Thursday.

A significant increase in hospitality visitors is expected by the leader of Birmingham’s entertainment district, who correctly predicted the numbers that turned up on Saturday when Broad Street’s pubs, bars and restaurants finally reopened to the public after nearly four months of lockdown.

Mike Olley, general manager of Westside Business Improvement District in Birmingham, estimated that about 8,000 revellers would descend on Broad Street and Brindleyplace over a 12-hour period last Saturday to mark the reopening of the “golden mile”.

He proved to be almost spot on, with the actual footfall in Westside totalling 8,227 people on the street. But to put it into context, that figure compared to a footfall of 34,647 people on the corresponding day of July 4 last year.

Mr Olley is now looking forward to a rise in visitor numbers, particularly after the Chancellor this week announced a number of giveaways to help boost the vital hospitality sector.

Mr Olley said: “Anticipation was buzzing with people having been starved of what they regard as a good night out for several months. The reopening of pubs, bars and restaurants was extremely welcome and it has gone well.”

John Corser

By John Corser
Business Reporter

Express & Star Business Editor at head office, Wolverhampton. Welcomes all news of companies and business organisations.

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