Burnley Hospitality Hell: 'The financial help has been an insult to be honest' – Crooked Billet landlady
Crooked Billet landlady Alison Leigh is hoping that it will be "all systems go" for a spring re-opening, but said it would be a bittersweet occasion with so many pub succumbing to money woes.
This traditional freehouse country pub, situated on the outskirts of Burnley in Worsthorne, is run by Alison and Paul Miller, who bought it in 2012 from Punch Taverns.
During the last nine years, they have transformed a once ailing pub into a thriving hub of the community.
"I have worked here for over 30 years and have a great clientele," she said. "From mountain bikers every Tuesday, our quiz night on Wednesdays, soul nights, karaoke, live music, Irish Folk night and even a dominoes group, we cater for all local community groups, our regular customers and lots of walkers. It's a popular watering hole for so many."
These are Alison's views on lockdown:
What do you miss most about being open?
What we miss most about being open is all our customers, and our wonderful staff.
We must see hundreds of people a week and we miss the banter and friendliness of them all; most of whom have become very good social friends of ours over the years.
Do you think the pub/bar trade can survive another summer of disruption?
We are really hoping that from spring onwards it will be all systems go and we can welcome back all our customers into the pub without further disruption.
I am aware of a few places already that will not be re-opening due to lack of financial help which is very sad.
Is the tier system the right approach to exiting lockdown?
Hospitality has been hit the hardest over the last 12 months, and we have been closed more than we have been open over this last year which has been very difficult as the bills still arrive each month.
The tier system didn't help anyone – apart from cause extra endless work, not to mention the extra expense too of buying in all the food we had to serve compulsory with any drinks.
We are hoping this won't be the case again when we re-open.
We had to employ more staff to do this but as it was seating-only we were operating with less than half the capacity of guests, therefore making profit very minimal.
Could the Government have done more to support the hospitality sector?
Yes, the Government should have done much more to help the hospitality sector. We were the ones that came out worse off.
In December, all the hairdressers, beauty and shops were open – not to mention bars, restaurants down South, too. We were the only ones here in the North that have been closed since early November.
We feel the Government must give more grants to help us out until spring or many other businesses will fall by the wayside, and not be able to sustain the next few months of outgoings.
The last few months' help has been an insult to be honest to what we should have realistically earned over the Christmas period.
Will Burnley bounce back stronger?
I think Burnley will bounce back, but not stronger. Many businesses have been affected by the hospitality sector being closed for such a long time, and many businesses in town have failed due to this.
Less people are in town now as we have been closed for so long and unfortunately people will get out of the habit of visiting pubs and eating places locally as they have been closed for months.