Burnley Hospitality Hell: Royal Dyche owner Justine says she is losing sleep worrying about her 'pub family'

"I message most just to check in on them, but seeing that they’re okay is what makes the big difference."
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Royal Dyche owner Justine Lorriman said she can't wait to see her staff and regulars again as she continues to focus on the positives ahead of any possible re-opening date.

Justine took over the running of the Yorkshire Street pub in 2013, back when it was called The Princess Royal.

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She's poured her heart and soul into transforming the pub's appearance and reputation, eventually buying it outright two years ago.

Royal Dyche owner Justine LorrimanRoyal Dyche owner Justine Lorriman
Royal Dyche owner Justine Lorriman
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"Something that was supposed to be a temporary favour turned into the start of my life’s work as I gradually changed the pub's reputation, and improved the interior and exterior over time," she said.

"A joke I wrote in chalk on the advertisement board led to the pub's biggest success when we were renamed The Royal Dyche on June 1st, 2018, after we had our first taste of European football in 51 years.

"I was then lucky enough to go on and buy it in December 2018,and have continued to build and improve the pub."

The Royal DycheThe Royal Dyche
The Royal Dyche

Here are Justine's thoughts on all things lockdown:

What do you miss most about being open?

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I miss the people! I have a great team of staff and our regular customer base is like one big family.

You get into a comfortable routine of seeing these people everyday, I lose sleep thinking about them and hoping they’re all doing okay.

I message most just to check in on them but seeing that they’re okay is what makes the big difference. I’m really excited for us all to be reunited when we re-open.

The match day customers too, we had so many of the same faces in every game and had great banter together - I can’t wait to see all their faces and feel that game day buzz again!

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Do you think the pub/bar trade can survive another summer of disruption?

Survival would depend on each venue's individual situation. I think the opening and closing with little notice hurts businesses even more.

Stock goes out of date and supplies we invested in to keep everyone safe are wasted. It just deflates you having to close again after you have re-opened and put so much time and effort into making your venue a safe place to visit.

It’s not been easy and I was lucky to be in the financial situation I was, and had reserves to depend on – but as I’ve found already, they don’t last forever.

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More grants would be needed to survive another summer, but the ones given previously still aren’t enough to cover the business’ overheads. I can guarantee this will apply to many other venues in the industry too.

Is the tier system the right approach to exiting lockdown?

I don’t think the tier system is the right approach, I think it would encourage people to travel to areas in lower tiers to visit restaurants and pubs.

I also run a wet-led pub and had to close my venue earlier than others who served a ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol due to this system.

There was no evidence supporting that buying a meal with an alcoholic drink lowers the risk of you catching Covid. Yet the Government implied that rule anyway.

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The exit plan last summer was fair and we have the vaccine this time round, so hopefully we will see a similar approach. There’s rumours that pubs can open in April but not serve alcohol – that’s like taking food away from the restaurants.

Could the Government have done more to support the hospitality sector?

The industry definitely needs more funding, but any financial support we received from the Government was better than nothing.

We have to realise that there have been many individuals and businesses that have received very little support, with some getting nothing.

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The Government could have saved us money so we didn’t have to depend on more from them by giving us more notice of closures. This could have prevented us from losing stock and other supplies.

Will Burnley bounce back stronger?

Yes, Burnley will bounce back stronger.

I think once an exit plan of lockdown is put in place you will see venues come alive.

Events will be put in place, live music will be back and more venues will be teaming up together and providing more for their communities.

That’s the benefit of being in a small town, we look after each other and support our local businesses.

We just need to keep focusing on the positives and the good times ahead to get through this.