Welcome to the Sister Shout. A series of articles about our members and things that happen around Cheshire. In this issue of Sister Shout, we'll be chatting with Big Sister Debbie who runs The Carlton Tavern. Debbie is a crucial part of her community. The Carlton Tavern is a real hub in Handbridge. A well known live music venue, a friendly place to visit and somewhere that all Cestrians should know and frequent.
How did you cope with lockdown? The personal toll has been so very hard on many of us, especially when it comes to not being able to see family.
Although I throughly enjoyed being able to go to bed before midnight for the first time in 20 years I didn’t cope with lockdown very well, it made me realise just how much the social interaction side of my business keeps my mental health on an even keel. Also not being able to see and cuddle my three granddaughters was an absolute killer! 2 of them had birthdays and the youngest started to walk, so it was very tough emotionally overall! I did enjoy having the time to be able to cook and bake more than I usually can and have perfected a cheesecake recipe!
The personal toll has been so very hard on many of us, especially when it comes to not being able to see family. How did you feel about the support on offer for businesses during lockdown?
As far as support for my business goes, I found the National help was more than reasonable. We didn’t go into any debt at all which was a big fear at the beginning. Locally we’ve not really had any support to be honest, early on we and many other local businesses were crying out for some clarity and guidance on what steps we were to take but nothing was forthcoming. If it wasn’t for the sisterhub link up with Richard Beecham we wouldn’t have had any interaction at all.
On a local level and a national level. Has the Coronavirus crisis changed your relationship with your customers? For the better or worse?
As our business is built on having a good relationship with customers because we rely on the social interaction in the pub for customer retention our relationships haven’t changed all that much but we have grown closer to some even though we already did consider most friends rather than customers. We had set up a whats app group with our core regulars and have interacted with everyone throughout lockdown, some of the lockdown selfies were fab and kept everyone’s spirits up!
How are you handling the restrictions being lifted? Tell us about any changes you've made to your business.
As restrictions were being lifted our industry was one of the last and we still have some restrictions on us that are yet to be lifted. We have no pool or darts leagues for the foreseeable future which is a worry for our long term sustainability and our venue has live music twice a week, open mic on a Tuesday and live music on a Saturday, both of which are currently still restricted and against government guidelines. On the plus side We did have a unique idea of having one of our regular singers live stream exclusively for our venue from his living room which worked far better than we were expecting and we have been fully booked for it each week! As for the other restrictions thankfully we have a big enough venue that we were able to adhere to social distancing guidelines without too much disruption and we have the best customers ever who have done everything we have asked of them for the track and trace recording and maintaining social distancing. We’ve also noticed that people are more inclined to stay local and support local business so we’ve picked up a few amazing new customers and are feeling positive that we can survive through this.
Where would you like to see things this time next year?
We were in the process of adding a kitchen just as lockdown began so in a years time we hopefully will have it finished and be doing a roaring Sunday lunch trade at that point! We will be introducing a traditional pub grub home cooked style menu. We also hope our live music will be back with a vengeance and we are able to host our 5th annual music festival celebrating all of the truly awesome local musicians.
What do you hope to gain from your SisterHub network over the next 12 months?
From sisterhub I’m not sure what I want to gain, I enjoy the feeling of solidarity and knowing there’s a whole tribe of us that know what the others are going through and just how tough it is to run your own business, even more so in these current times so anything more than that is just a bonus! I get inspiration from seeing how hard other people are working and it motivates me to do more myself!
If you'd like to join SisterHub - click here
To learn more about the photographer of these amazing pictures - click here
Feel safe and enjoy a friendly beer with Debbie and the team at The Carlton Tavern!