A NEW landlord took over and reopened a Wroughton pub days before the pandemic hit the UK and the country went into lockdown.
Andy Waters and his family moved into The Check Inn on Woodland View at the start of the year and spent four weeks getting it ready to welcome back punters in March.
The government forced all pubs and restaurants to close shortly afterwards so the first few months of the pub’s new ownership have been a struggle.
Profits fell by more than a third and left them thousands of pounds a week down on their pre-lockdown trade.
So they had to make the chef redundant – Andy’s wife Carol now does the cooking – and can only afford to have one part-time member of staff.
Andy and Carol have cut their wages and not had a day off since lockdown began. They kept busy during the spring with a new takeaway service for the elderly and self-isolating which has continued to this day.
Despite all this, they’re keeping their spirits up and have enjoyed seeing familiar faces again since being allowed to reopen over the summer.
Andy said: “It’s our passion and we have had fantastic support from people in the area. The takeaway service was well-received – one of our customers is 102 – and we’ve delivered bacon rolls to builders on the construction sites nearby.
“We just have to come up with new ideas to keep going. If another lockdown comes in, I don’t know if we would survive. The beer and the rents are covered but we are running at a loss.
“People feel safe in here, everyone’s behaved themselves so far and we are seeing a lot of new faces, which is nice. People went for walks during lockdown and stumbled upon us, they didn’t know we were here.
“All landlords take hygiene seriously, so people aren’t worried when they come in for a drink or something to eat.”
Now the team are dealing with new challenges – a 10pm curfew being introduced and table service being the only way to serve customers.
“I understand why they’re doing the curfew for busy areas like the town centre but village and community pubs should be allowed to stay open.
” People get home from work around 6 and by the time they come into the pub, they’ll have to leave in two hours anyway.
“Our old ordering system worked well and I wish we could stick to it, I don’t see what difference the table service only rule will make and we don’t really have the staff for it, it’s going to make life a lot harder.
“I feel for other innkeepers, especially the smaller ones, who have similar staff problems but don’t have as much space as we do, it’s not just us who will be affected.
“The rules change every day, you can’t get head or tail of it, and the goalposts keep moving but we are still fighting through it with bulldog spirit.”
Andy has spent much of his life managing 20 other pubs and bed-and-breakfasts around the country, including The Ghost Train in Purton and The Worthington in Nythe.