Yorkshire pub endures sauvignon blanc shortage due to poor harvest in New Zealand to add to staffing woes

The manager of a Beverley pub has spoken about how coronavirus is affecting his venue and others after 15 staff isolating due to coronavirus forced them to close.

Matt Clapison, general manager of The King’s Head in Beverley’s Market Place, said the pub was back to full strength this week after closing from Monday December 27.

He added the festive period was quieter than expected and supply issues, the prospect of new restrictions and what he dubbed mixed messages from the government continued to hamper trade.

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It comes as the pub was forced to shut from the 27th, leaving them under-staffed and unable to open on New Year’s Eve.

The King's Head, Beverley

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Mr Clapison said the government should either close pubs entirely if they are thought to be unsafe, or stop encouraging people not to go if not.

The manager said: “We did really well over Christmas before we had to close, business was good, but the government recommending that people should limit social contact did have an adverse effect.

“We have all types of clients coming in, but we did find there were a lot of elderly customers cancelling their bookings.

“That was a little bit of a hit, although on Christmas Day itself everyone who booked came, I think because they’d had their reservations for so long, it was extremely busy.

“The cancelled bookings on other days had a knock-on effect on our stock. Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year, we were expecting it to be as busy as it was in 2019 this time.

“But it wasn’t because of the cancellations, and when you’re a fresh food restaurant if you can’t use the stock you have to throw it away, it has to be wasted.

“We lost the best part of 250 covers in the 10 days up to Christmas which is a lot. It wasn’t that busy during the day on Christmas Eve either, normally we’d get groups of people out for drinks coming in, there weren’t as many this year.

“But it was still busy in the evening, though nowhere near 2019’s trade. We have had trouble get some things in, it’s very random when it comes to stock.

“With wines for example, we couldn’t get hold of any sauvignon blanc for about four weeks because New Zealand had a bad harvest.

“We’ve also struggled getting hold of tia maria and kahlua which we need to make espresso martinis. It seems like all the suppliers are using coronavirus as an excuse for the shortages, it’s across the whole industry.

“The summer time was a nightmare for staffing, we lost a couple of people to other trades.

“We struggled getting chefs for a little while, but now we’re alright with staffing generally but I know some other businesses who are really struggling. Hospitality’s a specialist job, and it’s not for everyone.

“That’s especially true with chef work, I sometimes work in our kitchen but I wouldn’t want to do it every single day.

“We have had a couple of people from the care sector come across to us though which is good because hospitality needs caring people.

“January has been quiet, but it usually is anyway, although it’s even quiet on the weekends, trade hasn’t really picked up.

“Everyone in hospitality was expecting a lockdown after Christmas, we thought as soon as the festive period was over that would be it for us. But the trouble is the mixed messages coming from the government.

“If they really think it’s unsafe for us to be open then they should shut us, otherwise they shouldn’t be saying to people not to go in. So we’re just trying our best to work within the laws as they are, what the industry really needs now is stability. Despite everything I’m feeling relatively optimistic.

“2021 was a shocker, as was 2020, but I feel confident this year we can start rebuilding the industry and get back to normal.

“I hope the government’s message because more clear and concise though, because people listen to them.

“I remember in March 2020 when the pandemic began but before lockdown, we had the news on in the bar and when officials said people shouldn’t go to pubs, our customers just got up and left.

“One thing that would worry me is if they decided to go back to full table service, it’s very expensive for us to do that.

“When pubs had to do it we had to make a new host role where a staff member would greet customers, take their contact details and show them to their table.

“Then you need more staff to serve the customers at the tables, doing it properly costs a lot of money.”