I am spending more and more of my time in the constituency talking to local businesses to hear about how they have faced down the challenges of 2020 and how they are planning for the months to come. Last Friday I visited a number of pubs in the patch to get a sense of how each had fared through lockdown and find out how they were coping with changing regulations. I have to say I came away from my tour deeply impressed by the resourcefulness of each of them – seeing how they have adapted to the new circumstances, created new opportunities and found new ways to support customers really re-affirmed my faith in good, sound Essex business sense.
(Note to readers: I stay off the booze when I’m on my rounds so this was a somewhat sober pub crawl.) It was good to hear how a number of pubs took advantage of Eat Out to Help Out in August and some – like the King’s Head in Ongar – have chosen to extend it through September. Those that used it said that it really brought people in on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and made a real difference to takings at the till. A lot of places, like the Olde Dog in Herongate, have opened up impressive new outdoor areas to seat customers and keep them safe or, like the Green Man in Ingrave, have rearranged their inside seating thoughtfully to help people stay comfortable whilst being Covid secure.
As I saw on my tour, places are doing pretty good business all things considered. The Rising Sun on the Ongar Road – which has had a brilliant face lift recently and is under new management with Ian Boyd at the helm – is reporting good passing trade in the evenings. And The Green Dragon in Shenfield was doing a roaring lunch trade when I popped in.
This is good news, but we can’t take our pubs for granted. It’s extremely important we all support them in the months to come. I’m encouraging everyone to buy “a pint a week in a local pub”. (This doesn’t have to be booze, could be lemonade or coke.) Our pubs need our patronage because we want them to be there when this is all over. So, socially distance as the regulations require, but please get out there and support your local boozer. ENDS