Hospitality & Tourism

Published: March 21, 2020 | Updated: March 22, 2020

Last orders: government edict means brewer’s pubs will close for the first time in 243 years

The Hall & Woodhouse Brewery in Blandford.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A government edict that all cafes, pubs and restaurants should close means that a Dorset brewer’s public houses will shut their doors for the first time in the company’s 243-year history.

Hall & Woodhouse (H&W) had already taken the decision to “act decisively” and temporarily close its 52 managed pubs in response to what it called these “unprecedented times.”

The phased closure over the next week was due to be announced at midnight last night.

In the event, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, got in first by announcing cafes, pubs and restaurants must close from Friday night – except for take-away food – to tackle coronavirus.

Nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres have also been told to close “as soon as they reasonably can”.

The situation will be reviewed each month.

The government has said it will pay 80 per cent of wages for employees who are not able to work, up to £2,500 a month.

In a statement, Matt Kearsey, H&W’s Managing Director, pictured left, said: “In our history we have faced many challenges (including world wars), but we have always kept our doors open.

“Our current plan is to continue to retain our teams, albeit on reduced remuneration with extra support available for those in need from the Woodhouse Trust (established many years ago by the family to support current and past team members).

“Hopefully the government will follow our lead and provide support for people in this situation.”

H&W also has business partners renting 130 of its pubs and running their own businesses.

Mr Kearsey said: “We announced some days ago as a first step, amongst other things, a 100 per cent rent holiday for a month.

“Together with government action on rates, this removes the vast majority of fixed costs for these pubs.”

Up until the government announcement of all pubs closing, H&W said it proposed to continue brewing beer in Blandford to supply the off trade and business partner pubs choosing to stay open.

Mr Kearsey said: “Our current plan is that we continue to employ all our teams but inevitably to do so we will all have to pull together and make sacrifices, with the Directors and shareholders taking the lead.

“We are now focusing on the immediate future and how we can continue to make people’s day and enrich our communities in new ways during the temporary closure of our pubs.

“We will also ensure that we are well prepared to re-open rapidly when it is right to do so.”

A spokesman for H&W said “very substantial” reductions had been made both by the directors in terms of salary and in the dividends by shareholders.