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West Norfolk publicans stay active in multiple ways despite lockdown closure blow



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Publicans have responded to the lockdown announcement by pursuing a variety of projects and schemes during closure.

Some pubs in the area are continuing to deliver essential items and meals to vulnerable residents, while others are offering vaccinations at their venues. One chef is even taking the time to write a book.

Boris Johnson's address to the nation last night means pubs and restaurants must close, or remain closed following on from the Tier 4 restrictions in Norfolk.

Chef Ben Handley of the Duck Inn at Stanhoe
Chef Ben Handley of the Duck Inn at Stanhoe

Under the new rules, restaurants and pubs can continue delivery, takeaway or click-and-collect services for food and non-alcoholic drinks, but venues will no longer be able to serve takeaway or click-and-collect alcohol.

Ben Handley, chef patron at Stanhoe's Duck Inn will will using the time to write his first book which he has described as an exciting project which has reignited his passion for food and people.

Regarding the lockdown, Mr Handley said: "We absolutely agree that lockdown was the right thing to do, the safety of the public must always come first.

With a box of freshly cooked meals, White Hart landlord Kurt Oliver gets ready to make a home delivery. Picture: Ian Burt
With a box of freshly cooked meals, White Hart landlord Kurt Oliver gets ready to make a home delivery. Picture: Ian Burt

"We hope this shall be the last lockdown, as the vaccines are being rolled out, so we hope that we can hit the ground running when we reopen in the spring time and enjoy a fantastic summer without the threat of further closures.

"We are taking the coming few weeks to take stock, hunker down and ride it out. The cycle of opening and closing and offering takeaways is impossible to sustain, so we shall sit and wait until the time is right for us to reopen for good."

Elsewhere, the White Hart in Swaffham has extended its commercial deliveries as far as Dereham, while also offering free meals for children in need.

The pub has set up a fundraising page via GoFundMe which will go towards these meals after some people offered cash for a similar cause during the October half-term. This page can be found at www.gofundme.com/f/swaffham-emergency-resonse-centre.

Working in partnership with Swaffham Lions, the town council's Relief in Need scheme and the community fridge, the pub is helping as many people as they can.

A statement on the pub's Facebook page says: "The reality of a national lockdown is that many families will now face the very really struggle of finding extra money for heating, lighting and to feed children who might normally have free meals while at school.

"Our aim is to help by offering a free meal to any child who needs one."

Landlord Kurt Oliver said: "We are still doing our Hart to Home meal delivery service to elderly and vulnerable people in the Swaffham area and surrounding villages.

"The government has received a lot of bad press but I do not think anyone can argue with the decision, and the support they are giving to businesses is quite good actually. Whether the support is enough for individual businesses is another matter."

He also thanked a group of volunteers from Swaffham Shopping Service for their support in helping the pub to serve local people since the first lockdown.

Swaffham mayor Jill Skinner said: "Kurt is an amazing person and we are most grateful to him. If he needs to spend any money, the council is willing to help him with these schemes."

Mr Oliver said the pub would be happy to offer the venue as a vaccination station if requested.

Other pubs in West Norfolk have already committed to this during the Tier 4 restrictions including the Bank House in Lynn, The Crown in Gayton, and The Jolly Brewers in Shouldham Thorpe.

Michael Baldwin pictured inside the Wenns
Michael Baldwin pictured inside the Wenns

Michael Baldwin, of the Bank House and The Wenns, said: "We have offered ourselves up as a Covid vaccination station should we be required and are delighted to see other local venues have since done the same.

"We are looking to offer a Romantic Valentine’s Takeaway next month but we are assessing all options at the moment. The safety of everyone is the most important thing, which is why this final, hopefully, lockdown is so important.

"We hope to be able to welcome everybody back soon and start giving a few hugs and handshakes back out to our amazing customers."

Such sentiments were shared by Mr Handley of the Duck Inn. He added: "I just can’t wait to get started again, play with food and meet our wonderful staff and customers once more."

The Rose and Crown in Snettisham has been been operating a takeaway service during the lockdowns and also introduced a small shop in November.

This sells baked goods from the kitchen, fruit and veg from suppliers, and merchandise such as mugs, aprons, water bottles and umbrellas.

Jeannette Goodrich, owner of the Rose and Crown, said: "It makes no difference from the trading point of view to be in Tier 4 or part of a national lockdown, and having a national lockdown eliminates any uncertainty about what is or is not allowed.

"Given the current pandemic figures, declaring a lockdown is probably the right thing to do. We had sort of expected this third lockdown after the rule relaxation over Christmas so it was not a surprise, but it is of course very disappointing to have to be shut for Christmas Day, when traditionally we just have the bar open for a very busy two hours, lots of happy drinkers and a wonderfully festive atmosphere, and for Boxing Day.

"This is normally one of the busiest days of the year, with lots of households and families looking for some comfort food after a long walk, or even swim, on the beach and good cheer.

"It seems unlikely that we will open again before March, and more likely after Easter."

During this new lockdown, refurbishment work will take place for some of the bedrooms and bathrooms at the venue. The pub has recently built new staff changing rooms and a break area.

Mrs Goodrich added: "We have a number of staff using this time to do online courses. However given how impossible it is to see when we might reopen, we are trying to restrain ourselves a bit. And to take a bit of a break after what has been a very stressful year!"



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