As the reality of lockdown hits and the nation works to adapt, a Bournemouth pub shows us how businesses can still continue to support the local community…
It’s all a bit surreal, isn’t it? Our streets, once rife with the hustle-and-bustle of commuters, shoppers and local food stalls, now a ghost town. But not everyone is staying inside. The Crown in Northbourne has a long history of fundraising and a charitable attitude within the community, and COVID-19 hasn’t slowed them down.
Mel Fitzhenry, head chef at The Crown, has been at the centre of the community in recent times. When the lockdown was first implemented and panic-buying was becoming a real issue, she was up with the birds buying and offering basics for those in the community that need it. The Facebook post offering goods to those in need received a wealth of support with almost 5,000 views. One customer even reached out on behalf of some armed forces officers who were left without food between shifts due to panic-buying. Of course, management at The Crown were happy to help, and provided the officers plenty of sustenance for the long shifts. Since then, Mel has been offering goods to the community out of their own pocket non-stop, often going on big shops to offer essential products to those who might need them.
The Crown, known well for its sturdy stance in the community, has been doing all they can to boost spirits and make sure no one is forgotten about, many locals live alone and don’t have friends or family close by to keep them company. Mel commented:
“‘People are lonely. They are using their hour exercise to walk past the pub hoping to see someone just for a brief chat.”
She further emphasised that this is a key part of being a pillar for the community, even chatting to passersby daily can be a real lifeline for lonely people in lockdown. This new way of life hasn’t come without its challenges, to go from a bustling business to tumbleweed in a matter of days takes its toll. Mel exclaimed, “It’s strange waking and having no structure, no routine…”
What’s It Been Like for the Staff?
While time off is a novelty for Mel and The Crown family, the reality of lockdown makes it hard to break habits built over a long time through working. Employees at The Crown have also, like so many, been affected by the pandemic and the financial, emotional and psychological impacts of lockdown. Staff expressed:
“Not knowing what’s going on in the future is difficult. We don’t know if we are still going to have a job and home after all this.”
Despite this, the pub keeps up morale via their group chat where staff can continue the friendship, banter and closeness from a distance while on furlough. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Lockdown has given the Fitzhenrys time to catch up on jobs, and they have passed the time decorating the pub ready for when customers return.
This isn’t the only thing Mel has been up to. Outside of The Crown, she has also been working in a hospital kitchen as a catering assistant increasingly since lockdown. She explained that it can be a little scary, as they have to work with trolleys that have been used by COVID patients:
“We don’t know how much virus stays on plates and food waste… We have gloves, spray trolleys, and work to strict hygiene rules, but it’s still a worry as people in the kitchen are off work due to the virus.”
Mel did say however that her work at the hospital has also been a welcome break, and it has allowed her to have plenty of interaction with others and develop new friendships along the way. It is clear that businesses like The Crown have been a godsend for so many, and the support Mel herself has been giving is why so many community members are keeping spirits high. The Crown management explained where the inspiration comes from to act as a pillar for the local area:
“It’s all we have known. We are a community pub dealing with all walks of life – the customers are part of the family! Strangers come in and they are treated equally, It’s all done as part of a team.”
So, what’s next for the local boozer? As many will, no doubt, agree, the country is waiting to get its pubs up-and-running again. And The Crown regulars want their local back. There have even been letters written to Marstons expressing concerns from customers if The Crown will reopen. Mel commented on this, stating:
“We are lucky, as we have a good community spirit, and we know the customers will support us.”
The Crown Pub continues to give back what they can, and so it’s not hard to see why it is so loved by the locals. If anything, COVID-19 has shown the importance of a strong community. Here’s hoping, in time, we will be back in the beer garden once more.
For more about The Crown in Northbourne, check out their website here. Also, click the following link for our Catering & Hospitality stories. Plus, you can follow HQB Media on all our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.