Why a Northumberland pub landlord is worried about reopening on July 4

Weighing up the need to make the most of the summer season while keeping everyone safe is preying on a Northumberland publican’s mind.
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Michael Dawson is landlord of The Craster Arms in Beadnell, a venue which relies heavily on the tourists who come to the Northumberland coast.

Along with many other publicans, he plans to reopen on Saturday, July 4 in line with the latest easing of lockdown measures.

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“It looks like we’re going to have a huge influx of people coming into the area and I don’t think there is going to be any shortage of customers, but we’re going to have to limit what we do,” he said.

The Craster Arms, Beadnell.The Craster Arms, Beadnell.
The Craster Arms, Beadnell.

Its summer beer festival and Northumberland Day celebrations normally see visitors packing out the pub and beer garden.

“Obviously nothing like that can happen this year,” he said.

The loss of live music is also a blow.

“You need a crowd of people in the pub to meet the costs of putting on live music and we can’t encourage that,” he explained.

Crowds at The Craster Arms, Beadnell, on a previous year's Northumberland Day. Picture from Northumberland EATSCrowds at The Craster Arms, Beadnell, on a previous year's Northumberland Day. Picture from Northumberland EATS
Crowds at The Craster Arms, Beadnell, on a previous year's Northumberland Day. Picture from Northumberland EATS
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There is an obvious financial impact, never mind taking into account the costs of a three month long closure.

“As a business we rely on summer trade and it’s not going to be possible to get the numbers in that we ordinarily would,” said Michael.

“There will have to be changes – prices are going to have to go up, staffing costs will have to be reduced.”

Michael Dawson, landlord of the Craster Arms in Beadnell.Michael Dawson, landlord of the Craster Arms in Beadnell.
Michael Dawson, landlord of the Craster Arms in Beadnell.
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There is also uncertainty about how to adhere to new rules, although he welcomes the change in social distancing guidelines.

“We are a little confused about the guidelines and working out what we can and can’t do,” he said. “It feels like we’ve been getting mixed messages.

“It’s not just about managing front-of-house and customers, it’s our staff too. They want to come back to work but they have concerns about how to maintain a safe working environment.

“It’s been quite a stressful time for a lot of operators wondering how they’re going to reopen and, when they do, what it will actually be like.

Craster Arms, Beadnell.Craster Arms, Beadnell.
Craster Arms, Beadnell.
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“But the social distancing change from 2pm to 1m+ makes a huge difference. If it had stayed at 2m I don’t think the business would have been viable.”

However, he has criticised the decision to allow pubs to reopen on a Saturday.

“It’s a worry,” he said. “Reopening on a Saturday is asking for trouble.

“I would have been happy to reopen on (Monday) July 6 but we have an online booking facility and had already taken bookings for the weekend.”

He revealed there had also been a surge in hotel bookings.

“They have gone through the roof,” he said.

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The Craster Arms has done its bit for the local community during lockdown, operating a free food delivery service to elderly and vulnerable in Beadnell, Bamburgh and Seahouses four times a week.

The scheme came to an end on Sunday.

“It went down really well,” said Michael. “We were serving about 80 residents in the three villages.

“When we started there were significant costs involved so we set up a delivery service to prop it up.

“The community then got on board and started making donations which really helped.”

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He admits the fear for many operators now is a second wave of coronavirus cases.

“The big concern is going back to square one,” said Michael. “I really don’t think we could survive it.

“The test will be when holiday sites reopen.

“We just really hope that people are respectful of the area and take heed of the rules - then we can enjoy the rest of the summer.”

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