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At a time when uncertainty reigns, how are our beloved independent pubs and craft breweries handling lockdown?

Like many of us, Brighton Beer Blog is worried how lockdown has affected and will continue to affect our local independent pubs and brewers

We hear first-hand, from The Hand, how one of Brighton’s independent pubs and breweries is handling isolation from its customers and what a reopening might look like.

BBB interviews Jack and Jen, of Hand Brew Co and the Hand In Hand pub in Kemptown.

Introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about your roles.

Jack: I run the brewing side of the business, both at our brewpub in Brighton and production brewery in Worthing.

Jen: I run the pub side of the business as well as looking after trade sales for the brewery.

As a pub and brewery, how has the lockdown affected both sides of the business in terms of trade and sales?

Jack: Once lockdown was officially announced our sales dropped 100% overnight. Since we are a small brewery, we’ve only ever produced cask and keg and not been able to produce any small pack that we could sell directly to consumers. When all the pubs closed our orders naturally went to zero.

Jen: I was relieved when lockdown was officially announced, as I felt it was the best and safest thing to do. The weeks before, with the government telling people to avoid pubs but not ordering them to close, didn’t feel right.

Obviously when we closed our sales dropped to zero and all the staff went on furlough. The hospitality sector grant helped cover our rent and bills for a short time, but we had to think of a safe way to sell to keep money coming into the business.

In May, after we were able to take stock of the situation, we started doing takeouts from the pub in milk cartons; and we’ve recently starting filling 500ml cans with the arrival of our crowler machine from the US.

How have you been able to continue to brew safely? What changes have you made? 

Jack: We only recently started brewing again after around two months of no activity. Luckily I’m able to operate with just one person brewing, so have been working solo until this point. I expect to bring our other brewer off furlough in July, but have yet to work out the safest way for us to work together since our brewery is in such a tight space.

We are starting to do 5l mini kegs soon which will be available for takeout from the Hand in Hand.

Your socials show images of your pub hatch opening for takeaway. It must be nice to get a part of the business back to normal. How did you make this social-distancing safe?

Jen: We’ve set up the takeaway hatch to be as safe as possible, with all staff working in gloves and facemasks, only accepting card payments and sanitising all containers before giving them to the customer.

The hatch is open daily 12–6pm, and Friday & Saturday until 8pm. We’ve received huge support from our local community, and it’s great being able to see all the familiar faces from a safe distance.

We also spotted some posts about an NHS key workers beer fund. What’s the response been?

Jack: The NHS fund was started as a way for people to buy drinks for NHS workers visiting the hatch. Since we’re so close to the hospital, lots of our regulars work there; so we thought this ‘pay it forward’ scheme would be a great way to support them as they were already coming to buy takeaway beer from the hatch. The support from people has been great – one person even donated £100. The tab is kept track of behind the bar and any health workers can buy drinks using the tab provided they bring their NHS ID.

There are rumours of the hospitality sector reopening in July, but can you see that working for pubs and bars? Will the Hand in Hand be gearing up for reopening?

Jen: Two-metre social distancing in the Hand will be almost impossible due its size. However if it is reduced to one metre as per the WHO’s guidelines it may be feasible to open up to a handful of customers. We are exploring options for putting perspex panels up in front of the bar and sanitising all surfaces regularly to keep our staff and customers safe. Until we feel it is safe to do so we’ll continue to operate the hatch for takeaways only.

Jack: I think the staff are understanding of the situation, but obviously want to come back to work when it’s safe. From the start Jen has been amazing with checking on their mental health & wellbeing and making sure they still have money coming in. 

Looking beyond lockdown, what has the pub and brewery got planned for late summer when, fingers crossed, things are back to normal?

Jack: With our new site in Worthing due to be operational in late July we’d love to be able to show people round and open the taproom, but we’ll have to monitor government guidelines closely on whether we can do this safely. We’ll probably open the brewery on Saturdays for takeouts once we have stock available.

Jen: We’d love to get back to our regular events schedule at the Hand, including jazz on Sundays. We’re really proud of the events we hold here for bringing the community around us together for some Hand-style fun, and can’t wait to get back to normal.

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At a time when uncertainty reigns, how are our beloved independent pubs and craft breweries handling lockdown?

Like many of us, Brighton Beer Blog are worried how lockdown has and will affect our local independent pubs and brewers

We hear firsthand, from The Hand, how one of Brighton’s independent pubs and breweries is handling isolation from their customers and what a reopening might look like

BBB interviews Jack and Jen, of Hand Brew Co and the Hand In Hand pub in Kemptown

Introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about your roles.

Jack: I run the brewing side of the business, both at our brewpub in Brighton and production brewery in Worthing.

Jen: I run the pub side of the business as well as looking after trade sales for the brewery.

As a pub and brewery, how has the lockdown affected both sides of the business in terms of trade and sales?

Jack: Once lockdown was officially announced our sales dropped 100% overnight. Since we are a small brewery, we’ve only ever produced cask and keg and not been able to produce any small pack that we could sell directly to consumers. When all the pubs closed our orders naturally went to zero.

Jen: I was relieved when lockdown was officially announced, as I felt it was the best and safest thing to do. The weeks before, with the government telling people to avoid pubs but not ordering them to close, didn’t feel right.

Obviously when we closed our sales dropped to zero and all the staff went on furlough. The hospitality sector grant helped cover our rent and bills for a short time, but we had to think of a safe way to sell to keep money coming into the business.

In May, after we were able to take stock of the situation, we started doing takeouts from the pub in milk cartons; and we’ve recently starting filling 500ml cans with the arrival of our crowler machine from the US.

How have you been able to continue to brew safely? What changes have you made? 

Jack: We only recently started brewing again after around two months of no activity. Luckily I’m able to operate with just one person brewing, so have been working solo until this point. I expect to bring our other brewer off furlough in July, but have yet to work out the safest way for us to work together since our brewery is in such a tight space.

We are starting to do 5l mini kegs soon which will be available for takeout from the Hand in Hand.

Your socials show images of your pub hatch opening for takeaway. It must be nice to get a part of the business back to normal. How did you make this social-distancing safe?

Jen: We’ve set up the takeaway hatch to be as safe as possible, with all staff working in gloves and facemasks, only accepting card payments and sanitising all containers before giving them to the customer.

The hatch is open daily 12–6pm, and Friday & Saturday until 8pm. We’ve received huge support from our local community, and it’s great being able to see all the familiar faces from a safe distance.

We also spotted some posts about an NHS key workers beer fund. What’s the response been?

Jack: The NHS fund was started as a way for people to buy drinks for NHS workers visiting the hatch. Since we’re so close to the hospital, lots of our regulars work there; so we thought this ‘pay it forward’ scheme would be a great way to support them as they were already coming to buy takeaway beer from the hatch. The support from people has been great – one person even donated £100. The tab is kept track of behind the bar and any health workers can buy drinks using the tab provided they bring their NHS ID.

There are rumours of the hospitality sector reopening in July, but can you see that working for pubs and bars? Will the Hand in Hand be gearing up for reopening?

Jen: Two-metre social distancing in the Hand will be almost impossible due its size. However if it is reduced to one metre as per the WHO’s guidelines it may be feasible to open up to a handful of customers. We are exploring options for putting perspex panels up in front of the bar and sanitising all surfaces regularly to keep our staff and customers safe. Until we feel it is safe to do so we’ll continue to operate the hatch for takeaways only.

Jack: I think the staff are understanding of the situation, but obviously want to come back to work when it’s safe. From the start Jen has been amazing with checking on their mental health & wellbeing and making sure they still have money coming in. 

Looking beyond lockdown, what has the pub and brewery got planned for late summer when, fingers crossed, things are back to normal?

Jack: With our new site in Worthing due to be operational in late July we’d love to be able to show people round and open the taproom, but we’ll have to monitor government guidelines closely on whether we can do this safely. We’ll probably open the brewery on Saturdays for takeouts once we have stock available.

Jen: We’d love to get back to our regular events schedule at the Hand, including jazz on Sundays. We’re really proud of the events we hold here for bringing the community around us together for some Hand-style fun, and can’t wait to get back to normal.

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Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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