Being a community hero can be good for business

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At the Pub17 exhibition at Olympia yesterday, a group of leading licensees concluded that being the centre of their community was definitely good for business.

In one of the live theatre events, In a Pub’s editor, Matt Eley, chaired a panel debate with award-winning operators who are having a positive impact through innovation and diversification: Dominic Worrall, from the Bull Inn at Ditchling in Sussex; Jessica Stanton from the Halfway House at Polbathic in Cornwall; Victoria MacDonald from the Cellar House at Eaton in Norwich; Simon Delaney from the Firbank Pub and Kitchen at Wythenshawe in Manchester were joined by Pub is The Hub’s Chief Executive, John Longden.

Jessica has set up a micro-library in partnership with Cornwall Library Services and explained that the introduction of this new service changed the community’s perception of what had been a male-dominated wet-led pub and brought women and children into the pub for a range of services and occasions.

At the Cellar House on the outskirts of Norwich, Victoria noticed that her post office within the pub had brought many older people, families with children and people who worked from home into the pub. As a result they were coming back to visit the pub for a drink and a meal or to book the function room.

Meanwhile, in Wythenshawe, Simon had set up weekly lunches for local elderly residents where they had also introduced IT training to get them online. At the same time he was determined to attract all ages to his pub so charitable fundraising and community events forms an important part of his pub’s attraction and support.

In East Sussex at The Bull in Ditchling, Dominic worked in a unique tourism scheme with the other businesses in his local community to create reasons for visitors to visit the village. Whilst he hasn’t run a diversification scheme – other than letting bedrooms – he has just given some freehold land to the village in order to introduce Super Fast Broadband to Ditchling, a gesture that delivered a standing ovation at the following parish council meeting.

He cautioned against losing sight of business objectives and said: “At the end of the day, we are in business. We can’t just be community angels but we do everything we can to be a successful, thriving business that can be a hub for the village.”