AN UPDATE FROM COLIN WILDE AND CASTLE ROCK
Over the past several weeks, we’ve tried to keep you as updated on our drive thru and beer deliveries, while also sharing various blogs and articles from the Castle Rock family.
However, we haven’t given a more thorough company update for some time. Now that we have a little more clarity, we wanted to let you know where we’re at, how we got here and where we’re headed.
The night that pubs closed was an extremely unusual one, and an emotional one for us and our colleagues. It almost felt like a last day of school, but with no idea when term would start again. I was one of the few who ended up hunkering down at the Lincolnshire Poacher during their untimely power cut; with all lighting and even emergency lighting out, we were drinking by candlelight in near pitch darkness. It was a surreal end to a rollercoaster day.
Running pubs and a brewery is both rewarding and challenging, but of course nobody ever imagined a scenario where all our pubs would close for months on end. Our two main sources of income were gone overnight, and 300+ members of the Castle Rock extended family faced uncertain futures. Still, there was no time to be dazed. We had to act quickly to protect Castle Rock and its colleagues, and that’s what we did.
We had to drill down into and re-write all of our financial projections, try to work out contingency plans for our colleagues who were understandably worried, arrange a full-scale clean and shutdown of the brewery and pubs, rescue and store/sell as much food and beer as we could, and ultimately try and figure out what on earth was going to happen.
The worst-case scenarios were running around in our heads. Many senior members of the team were quick to sacrifice large percentages of their salary and we, like everyone, were relieved by the announcement of the furlough scheme. Thanks to a well-maintained set of accounts, we were able not only to pay all of our colleagues and suppliers in March, but also be able to front the 80% wage payments to all colleagues at the end of April too, and launch a small hardship fund for those within Castle Rock who needed it the most. A number of generous customers also made donations into that fund, which has allowed us to support Castle Rockians most hit by income loss.
Both a lot, and not a lot, has happened since then. It has been devastating to see the impact CV-19 has had on families, communities, and lives. Almost the entire world has been completely stopped in its tracks.
HOW WE’RE COPING
We’ve been keeping in touch with the Castle Rock Family as much as we can via Facebook, WhatsApp and Zoom, from weekly pub manager catch ups and quizzes to the inevitable sharing of memes and images on staff Facebook pages.
We know how important clarity is to our colleagues, and so honesty and transparency has been key. We’ve tried to keep in regular contact with all the Castle Rock family, and have encouraged them to write their own blog posts, so they can express their own experiences. Castle Rock’s hard-working colleagues are taking this time to get some well-earned rest, but I am sure they will also be casting their minds to the future. We know that many of them are looking forward to getting back to work, and there will certainly be a lot to do when the time comes.
SO, WHAT WILL THE FUTURE BRING?
Recent updates indicate the status quo will remain until July, and again, various scenarios are playing out in our heads. Running a thriving business in the modern world is no cakewalk anyway, and we know it’s about to get a lot harder.
We are preparing ourselves for the most challenging twelve months in Castle Rock’s entire history. We are preparing to have to make difficult decisions and we are preparing to work the hardest we can to adapt to the New Normal, whatever that may be. “Flying the plane while building it” seems a good idiom here.
Even as it stands, we are still awaiting desperately important business rate relief payments, and deal with detrimental anomalies in the business grant support system. The Willowbrook, for example, is valued at £1k over the cut-off, so it gets no relief at all.
Plus, when we do open, what can we expect? Social distancing rules, while necessary, are hugely threatening to an inherently social industry. Capacity restrictions may mean pubs simply can’t afford to open or have to severely restrict the times in which they do. Some customer habits and behaviours may have changed too, which could result in drastic changes in where we spend our money – and how we live our lives in general.
WE’LL BE READY
We need your help, too. This crisis has represented one of the biggest challenges to our mental and physical health. However, pubs and well-made beer are pillars of our society. We’ve been making this case for the 43 years this business has been operating, and we won’t stop now.
We pledge to do all we can to continue to make our pubs safe, comfortable, warm, diverse and friendly environments and we are planning multiple broad-stroke scenarios as we await further government guidelines.
When the time comes, we will be ready and will adapt in whatever ways are necessary, but we hope we can rely on your support to help pubs and breweries survive. Ultimately, it’s thanks to you that we’re still here.
We know we’re not alone in our worries, with this crisis affecting every individual and every business sector. We will work together with our friends and family in the pub and brewing scene to help keep everyone afloat – with Nottingham being our priority. It’s not all about profit right now, but about looking ahead, protecting our industry and creating a sustainable future for our colleagues, customers and communities. When it comes to communities, we know the part that pubs play in them is going to be vital going forward.
Thanks so much for reading, and for your support and resilience. We hope you’re staying safe and looking after each other. Watch this space for future updates.
Colin and Castle Rock