We are delighted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given the green light for pubs to reopen on the 4th of July. After over three months of pub closure, including our own 19 outlet estate, in recent weeks we have significantly increased brewing at our Knowle Spring site in anticipation of the guideline date and to ensure we could meet customer demand.
At the beginning of March 2020, the brewery was thriving, with Landlord proving more popular than ever; a growing interest in our other traditional beers such as Boltmaker (CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain 2014); and our more modern style beers, such as Hopical Storm, finding new audiences.
Enter the coronavirus, which found the brewery, from April, working with a skeleton crew of 16 people with 90 furloughed. Not only did revenue collapse overnight because of government enforced pub closures but hundreds of thousands of pounds of cask beer has had to be thrown away as it was no longer in-date. A silver lining has been bottle sales, which have meant that brewing has been able to continue throughout this period, protecting the health of our 40 year old 'Taylor's Taste' yeast and bringing in some much needed revenue.
Despite our own financial pressures, we have taken the lead in supporting our pub partners, initially offering a four-week rent free period ahead of the lockdown and then, following the lockdown, a continued period of free rent. Despite pubs reopening in July, we will not be charging rent at this time either, giving licensees a chance to invest in their outlets and judge the level of trade without the added pressure of rent payments.
In preparation for more of the team returning to work, in recent weeks the brewery and offices have undergone a deep clean and new signage, hygiene and working practices have been initiated to ensure the safety of employees.
The big unknown is to what extent demand will return, given the conditions on social distancing that pubs will be placed under combined with an understandable reluctance on the part of some consumers who may feel they are at risk.
We anticipate that the months ahead will continue to be challenging, but our brewery has stood firm in Keighley for over 160 years and we are determined that it will continue to supply quality cask ales for many more years to come.