The inspirational story of how the team at The Broadwater pub faced the challenges of lockdown has been recorded in the book Covid Stories for generations to come to understand the highs and lows of the pandemic.
Diane Guest, the pub’s general manager, says she ‘put on a brave face’ and busied herself as much as she could, keeping in virtual contact with family, colleagues and regulars.
Diane said she really missed the social side of pub life during the lockdowns, so she would dress up for special occasions and sit outside The Broadwater, in Broadwater Street West, to chat to people passing by.
She then joined the Jabs Army team of volunteers on the Covid-19 vaccination programme, to help her cope with her pub being closed.
Diane said: “It was good to feel useful again. And it was just fantastic to be able to talk to new people face to face, as well as seeing the odd customer.
“I couldn’t wait to get customers back in the pub, though. I’ve lived here for 30-odd years, in fact I’ve lived here so long that I often see people’s grandchildren coming into the pub.”
Looking back to the start of Covid-19, Diane said it ‘crept up on’ Sunny Worthing, where it was business as usual and it did not seem like a thing to worry about.
She recalled: “The Friday night in March 2020 when the Prime Minister announced pubs were closing for the first time was weird. There was a lot of camaraderie between customers and team members because it was a totally unique situation that no one had ever been through before.”
The first lockdown was tough, she said. She kept in touch with staff on WhatsApp and contacted customers from the Meet Up Mondays social group she started in 2018 to make sure they were okay but was missing being able to be with her own daughter and twin granddaughters, three.
Diane said: “I missed all the occasions that we’d normally celebrate in the pub. On VE Day in May 2020, I sat outside the pub all dressed up in red, white and blue with my flags and everything – but on my own.
“A few people came by and I chatted from a distance. We’re in a really nice position here, so I’d hear cars pull up and rush out to see who it was so I could have a natter over the wall.”
Diane became a vaccination centre steward early in 2021 and said it was ‘just fantastic’ to be able to talk to new people face to face.
She said: “In fact, the organisers had me cleaning chairs to start with and spotted that I liked to chat and asked me to be the person who greeted people as they came in for their Covid jab.
“It got me out, kept me busy and I saw some of my regulars from the pub, which was great, and some people who I hadn’t seen for donkey’s years.”
On the plus side, Diane lost a stone and half with healthy eating and once customers could return, she was taking bookings for months ahead.
Nick Mackenzie, Greene King chief executive, said: “When Covid struck, it was devasting for the pub and brewing industry but we battled through the constant uncertainty and restrictions.
“The fortitude and can-do spirit, which epitomises the character of people who work in pubs, was phenomenal. Covid Stories aims to tell some of our people’s experiences, from the highs and the lows during the pandemic.
“I am so proud of all of our team members and the book is full of selfless, creative, giving, community-minded, team-spirited, endlessly resilient and frankly, inspirational people.”
During the pandemic, Greene King raised £1.5million for its charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support, despite pubs being closed for much of the time, and it provided a £1.5million team member support fund for its employees in financial need.
Food and stock worth £800,000 were donated to good causes and brewery drays travelled the length and breadth of the country collecting 120,000 firkins of unused beer so it could be disposed of in an environmentally-safe way.
For more information about Covid Stories, click here: www.greeneking.co.uk/our-company/covid-stories