Burnley Hospitality Hell: 'We need a firm re-opening date' – Craven Heifer landlady says uncertainly is killing the industry

Craven Heifer landlady Michelle Naylor wants the Government to stop opening and shutting pubs otherwise they will end up closing permanenty.
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Michelle, who took over the running of the pub for a second time in 2017, said it was imperative the Government published a concrete date for re-opening, so venues had something to works toward.

Michelle has been involved with the hospitality sector for four decades, and has spent the last three years working 15-hour days in order to turn around the Craven's fortunes.

She desperately wants the chance to carry on that work.

Craven Heifer, Burnley.Craven Heifer, Burnley.
Craven Heifer, Burnley.
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Burnley Hospitality Hell: 'If they shut us again then we are thinking of walking...
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"It’s the second time I’ve had the pub. I was previously here in the late 80s and through the 90s. The pub had been in the Naylor family from 1973 to 1997.

"It was owned by Masseys initially, then Bass Charrington. During the monopolies and merges, it moved to Punch Taverns and was placed under a lease agreement.

"Business was very good and the pub was the heart of the community. We sold the business in late 1997.

"Since then it has been a revolving door of different people taking on the pub. Punch approached me in January 2017 to see if I wanted the pub again. To be honest I didn’t but was also intrigued to see if I had what it took to turn the business around.

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"I took over in May 2017 and spent three hard years building the pub back up. Working 15 hour days, I turned the pub around to being the heart of the community again.

"It’s not just a drinking establishment. People socialise, forget there worries, help each other, do business in the pub."

These are Michelle's views on lockdown:

What do you miss most about being open?

Gosh there is so much I miss. The people, the banter, the happy times, the sad times. Supporting people through hard times in their lives.

I miss the staff. Meeting new people. Watching the young people of society develop being able to sit and chat with them about the future.

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You see them come in with their parents at 15/16 having a coke, in a blink of an eye they are in celebrating their 18th birthday.

I missed Christmas Day so much seeing families celebrate together.

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

I think pubs will survive if the Government stops opening and shutting them.

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Hospitality needs a firm date set to open be it May or September. But we need to know that if we ride it out then that’s it, no more opening and shutting. The industry can’t afford that kind of uncertainty.

People can’t afford to keep throwing stock away. Every single job matters. It’s crazy but even people that manufacture snacks like crisps and nuts are impacted by hospitality being shut.

You think how many packets of crisps are sold across the UK on pubs.

Is the tier system the right approach to exiting lockdown?

Yes. I know Burnley had been high on the list with Covid cases.

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I don’t see why smaller low risk areas should be penalised for other areas' behaviour or infection rates.

What I don’t think worked were some of the restrictions like table service etc.

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

Yes, to understand it’s not an industry you can stop and start overnight. A lot of our stock is perishable and people have lost thousands of pounds.

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Hospitality has done everything the Government has asked, but still gets penalised. It’s ridiculous that police and Covid marshals were targeting hospitality venues, when most were abiding by the rules.

It made the job awful to do you were constantly suspicious of new faces.

I think the Government should reduce the VAT to 5% for wet lead pubs. These establishments have not benefited at all. It was all about dining out with the Eat Out to Help Out, 5% VAT reduction on food and soft drinks. Your traditional pubs were left behind.

The grants haven’t even touched the sides of overheads. You are still paying gas and electric, card machine rentals,1% to BT Sports etc.

Will Burnley bounce back stronger?

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Burnley will bounce back but it will be slow. So many local industries have been impacted by the pandemic. Travel will have a big impact on jobs around Burnley as many people are employed in that industry be it directly or indirectly.

It’s going to be a long hard road back.

What I do hope is people have come to realise just what having your freedom means; to do what you want. To have local pubs and shops, and not just take it for granted.

That people realise just what our ancestors fought for. Independence and having a choice.

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