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The return of pubs is a big symbolic step on the road out of lockdown – but what’s it been like to run one during a pandemic?

York Way boozer Star of Kings has suffered the same impossible scenario over recent months as all the nation’s celebrated drinking establishments. Usually home to a hectic events calendar and gloriously sweaty basement venue, life won’t exactly be returning to normal just yet, but with a front terrace and large bar rooms too, the pub’s manager, James Chitty, reveals there’s going to be plenty to raise a glass to.

How has the COVID crisis affected the pub?
“Well obviously the government asked all pubs to shut their doors on Friday 20th March – just a few days before the full national lockdown – but to be honest by that time there were less and less people around the area anyway. We’ve been closed ever since, but in recent days we’ve been preparing the building for socially distanced drinking and my whole team are all really looking forward to opening again this Saturday.”

What’s your offering upon reopening?
Much as before, but with no entertainment programme for now, which means none of the usual DJs, comedy shows or live music, and we will be closing early for us, (that’s 11pm), for at least the next few weeks. On the positive side, we will have our very popular quiz nights coming back though, which is very exciting – they start on July 14th. Also Yeah! Burger will be back in the pub from the start serving their fantastic range of burgers from Tuesday to Saturday, and we’ll be doing roasts again on Sundays in the near future. We are encouraging customers to book ahead as everyone will need to be seated in the pub, with no hanging around at the bar. We will have an order-at-your-table system in place to help this work, too.

What have been your greatest concerns?
“The main stress for us has been all the uncertainty about when we’d be permitted to reopen. The next big thing is how busy we will actually be now we can. There’s just no way of knowing how it’s going to go. Margins to run a pub are very tight, so even a small drop in revenue can really affect our profitability.

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What’s made you feel optimistic?
“We have had some great conversations with other local business owners during this time and we seem to be much more united as an industry now, too. They do say that strength comes from adversity, so despite it all, some really positive things have come out of such a difficult situation.”

Who would you like to collaborate with?
We are always looking to increase our range of local beers, so we will be reaching out to brewers who we aren’t currently stocking, or haven’t stocked for a while, to ensure we can support them when we are back open. Now is definitely the time to support local producers and, of course, local pubs. We really look forward to see you all.”

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James said it – the coming weeks are going to be a tightrope for pubs everywhere, as they must pay staff, rent and bills while regulations restrict the number of people they can hope to serve. They will need us locals to support them, responsibly of course, but also frequently.

| Star of Kings website |
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