Tuesday 13 January 2009

Open sometimes or never?

My pub is closed at the moment. We're doing stuff to it, we've had a holiday and it's always too quiet to be worth opening this time of year. We are, after all, a tourist pub in the middle of nowhere, a very beautiful nowhere, but it's remote non the less.

Stonch also had a close down period over the Christmas break. I'm guessing most of his trade is from city workers who disappear during holiday time. He was closed for 11 days. 11 days holiday? I bet that's the most he's had away from the pub since he started earlier in the year.

When I was staying with Ted he closed for Christmas eve and Christmas day. Ted could have opened for Christmas eve and quite probably would have done alright out of it. I feel guilty that I did mock slightly. But Ted was adamant that on this occasion his wife and girls came first. He was at least going to do at Christmas what they have always done.

My friends at The Prince of Wales close every week Monday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday, except for bank holidays. They always have done, it's what they advertise and the majority of their customer base are very happy with the arrangement.

The first year we closed for part of the winter was the first year things started to improve for us here. We saved money on power and staff costs. Costs we could never recoup from the tiny revenue at this time of year, yes, even including Christmas and New Year. We started to get a breather, and get some important work done on the property.

The situation is explained here and also here on The Woolpack Inn blog. Notice the second anonymous comment. To me it says "how dare you have a life, how dare you have a Christmas of your own".

It seems to me that many pubs stay open at times when it is not financially viable because if they don't the publican comes in for grief. For us, closing for part of the winter is probably saving us from ruin, both financially and psychologically. We still continue to get criticised for this even though it is now the third year we have closed for most of the winter.

So would you rather your local, if it had to, closed part time, or closed altogether?


Alistair Reece said...

Sometimes I wonder is the "service" economy in the UK isn't in fact understood by many consumers as a "servant" economy. What right does a customer have to complain that a pub shuts down for Christmas? Publicans have families as well, and should be able to spend quality time with them.

As long as closures are publicised well in advance, as well as usual opening hours clearly displayed (and stuck to - pubs that advertise opening at 12.00 and then open at 12.30 bug my head) then what is the problem?

Unknown said...

Advertising can be a problem to get right. Most punters don't bother to try and find out - they just assume the pub is open. But I do believe that once the opening times are publicised then they should be stuck to.

You hit the nail on the head with the "servant" description. Over many issues a small number of customers expect a service that isn't practical. Some customers would have us open 24/7 all year. This is not achievable.

At this time of year we talk to about 1 potential customer a day who turns up. Most actually really understand and realise that we can't just stay open for them. But it is annoying when they point out that they really like our beer, but nicely annoying, of course. I would like to be able to open for these type of people. I still maintain that there is a general correlation between nice customers and those that like nice beer.

Alistair Reece said...

Not sure if you could get away with this from the terms of your licence, but would doing special mini-keg versions of your brews to cover people's cravings for your beer during down times be feasible?

Tim said...

Velky Al beat me to the point. Why are you not brewing all year round and going for off licence sales during the months you are closed?

Unknown said...

Very simple. Because I have a small brewery and I can't brew at the batch volume required to make off licence prices cost effective.

i.e. I would loose money.