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Claire, Publican

Ebrington Arms & The Killingworth Castle

On closing the pubs during lockdown.

When Boris announced the lockdown and told people not to go to pubs, we couldn’t believe it because we knew big events were still going ahead at that time. The first lockdown was the worst because we thought we were going to lose everything. We didn’t know what was going to happen. Suddenly, we had to think about closing, setting ourselves to do takeaways, carrying on with building work, settling our children for homeschooling— and there was no guidance! We were gutted because we had spent 2019 making improvements and spending money on the business—2020 was going to be our year.  We were so ready for it! To add to all that, our business insurance wasn’t communicating with us and we are still fighting that a year later. That whole period in the early days of lockdown felt like dark times.

 

On keeping afloat during lockdown.

When we started doing takeaways, it was amazing because we saw our regular customers again. The pub is so sad at the moment — there’s no chitter-chatter, no laughter, no clinking of glasses. It was hard because our industry is all about the atmosphere, people, celebration, getting together — everything that Covid-19 took away is what we are about. My mental health suffered-- I was quite stressed. Our family had to move houses during this time, we had to borrow more money against our mortgage to keep the business running, it felt like a backward step to where we were. We went through a lot but as a family unit, I feel we are stronger now more than ever.

 

There were brilliant moments during that time too — the Telegraph hailed us as the Best Food Pub in the UK and we won Most Instagrammable Pub in the country. We’ve got a great team and we kept the dialogue going; speaking to staff all the way through lockdown and involving them in our plans.

 

On leaving lockdown.

I can’t wait to stand at the bar, with a glass of wine and meet some strangers. Of course, the pub is where we gather as friends and family, but what I love about this place is that we meet someone new every day of the week. I love the spontaneity of never knowing what is going to happen at the pub at any day. New relationships, people telling jokes, hugs, chats, banter, noise — I look forward to all this coming back. It’s been hard, but I’ve also realised how resilient we are. No matter how hard it gets, we can keep going because there will always be a way out. 

To make reservations, visit the websites of Ebrington Arms & The Killingworth Castle.