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Past and present: Amazing pub landlord stories

The hospitality industry has shown itself to be a tower of strength and resilience this past year, with business weathering some of the most challenging conditions in living memory. The pub industry has been no exception, with many landlords going above and beyond not only to keep their own businesses afloat, but to help support their community.

The pandemic has left an indelible mark on the hospitality sector. Pubs and restaurants have been closing permanently at a rate of 30 per day since December 2019, amounting to some 12,000 venues, according to the Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners, with that number expected to rise sharply with the impact of the pandemic.

A roadmap to reopening is now in place with some relief expected to come from mid-April, while Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the 5% reduced rate of VAT for hospitality for six months in his latest Budget. The 5% reduced VAT rate will apply until 30 September. From 1 October an interim rate of 12.5% will be in place for another six months. Alcohol duties were also frozen for a second consecutive year.

Things are looking brighter, with the prospect of a pint in a beer garden edging ever close. But it will be years before pubs return to their pre-pandemic rate of business, with many unlikely to reopen their doors at all.

Pubs need all the support we can give them. But for now, we have taken a look at some of the most inspiring and down-right entertaining stories to have emerged thanks to landlords in lockdown, and a few more from the history books.

Scroll through as we celebrate the good humour, generosity and heroism of the pub landlord….

Landlords in lockdown

Many pubs have gone the extra mile to support their community over the past 12 months, despite needing support themselves. The 2020 Great British Pub Awards shone a light on a few of the, including Simon and Rachel Leadbetter, who run The Mowden pub in Darlington in the north east of England. The couple raised £9,500 whilst also cooking and delivering more than 10,000 free meals for elderly and vulnerable people at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The pair were awarded the Ei Publican Partnerships Pub Hero Award.

Meanwhile a pub in Cornwall was awarded the Front Line Support Pub Hero Award in recognition of its efforts to keep NHS staff fed and watered. Mark and Sarah Sear, of The Golden Lion Inn in Redruth provided more than 2,500 free meals to NHS staff and key workers during the pandemic, at a time where supermarket shelves were being stripped daily. The pair placed a bank of fridges on the pub forecourt and stocked them with a range of meals cooked in their pub kitchen, with the local community later chipping in to help fund the initiative.

Pub landlord installs electric fence to control punters

Not trusting that his punters could adhere to the government’s strict 2m rule, this landlord took matters into his own hands by erecting an electric fence around his bar.

As reported by Cornwall Live, Johnny McFadden, landlord at The Star Inn in St Ives, said the fence had been very effective. “Before the fence, people were not following social distancing and were doing as they pleased, but now people take heed to the guidance around social distancing”. McFadden added that the fence is usually turned off, but could be fired up if needed, telling the BBC that there was a “fear factor, and it works”. “People keep away from it, people are like sheep,” he concluded.

Landlord renames his pub The Three Bellends

Summing up the mood of the country, in October 2020 Daniel Davies, landlord of Liverpool pub The James Atherton in New Brighton, the Wirral, renamed his boozer The Three Bellends, changing the pub’s signs overnight.

The rude renaming was reference to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by Prime Minster Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Johnson’s former advisor Dominic Cummings.

Davies decided to pull the stunt just prior to the second lockdown in November when pubs were again placed into tier 3 measures. The tongue-in-cheek jibe at the trio has gone down well with locals, who don’t seem phased by the unconventional pub name, which looks set to remain, at least in spirit.

Its Twitter profile states: “Pub in New Brighton, Wirral. Not frequented by said bellends, thankfully.”

Pub landlord creates Sims replica of pub











One landlord was so dedicated to his pub that after testing positive for Covid-19 and self-isolating, he couldn’t bear to be parted from it, building himself a exact replica on Sims 4 that he could pull virtual pints from instead.

Kieran Youens-Byrne took 12 hours to complete his virtual construction of The Pineapple pub in Shaw, Oldham, crafting each virtual room to look exactly like the real thing. The 28-year-old took over the pub in 2020, shortly before it was forced to close its doors.

Sadly, it seems like The Pineapple has become a casualty of the pandemic, and is currently up for tenancy on the Admiral Taverns website.

Pub landlord saves family from burning building

In 2017 pub landlord Malcolm Durrant was hailed a hero after he rushed into a burning building to help rescue a family while walking home from a day at the Grand National. As reported by the East London & West Essex Guardian Series, Durrant saw smoke billowing from an upstairs window and rushed into help three children and an elderly women who were inside to safety.

Durrant and his partner, Rita Acharya, had owned the Hare and Hounds pub in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton. The couple later comforted the family, who’s home was badly damaged in the fire, with soft drinks and crisps in the beer garden. Mr Durrant had previously served in the Black Watch, one of the oldest Scottish infantry regiments, during the ‘70s when he was called upon to tackle fires during the firefighters’ strike in December 1977.

The pub landlord who helped sink the Bismarck

German battleship the Bismarck

A pub landlord from Bournemouth, who later ran a string of pubs in Reading, was revealed as the man crucial to the sinking of German battleship the Bismarck in 1941.

The Bismarck was responsible for a number of major losses for the British fleet, having been on the offensive in the North Atlantic, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill giving the famous order to ‘sink the Bismarck’. More than 50 navy ships joined in the chase to stop the huge battleship reaching the sanctuary of a German-occupied French port but lost it in thick fog. But it was Flight Sergeant Frederick Cecil Davis who was crucial to its undoing. He was the one of the first airmen to spot the vessel from the sky as it fled the sinking of HMS Hood, the pride of the British Royal Navy, in 1941, tracking it for  five hours while the Royal Navy closed in and ultimately sank it.

After he left the RAF following over 20 years’ service, Flt Sgt Davis and his wife Joyce ran pubs in Reading and Monmouthshire and a corner shop in Bournemouth before retiring to Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset. He died in 2009 aged 88. His story was among those told in the Trading History series broadcast on Yesterday in 2016.

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