The Sun : The Don bar refuses to turn its back on its elderly regulars during the coronavirus lockdown

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BRITAIN'S 40,000 pubs are in lockdown and may have to close until Christmas. If the measures last that long, however, it is feared that two-thirds may never re-open.

Despite the uncertainty, many licensees are doing all they can to help vulnerable regulars get through the Covid crisis.

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D-Day veteran Tommy Trotter, 99, who suffers from dementia, has still been able to get his daily lunch and pint thanks to the Don bar[/caption]

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Winner of The Sun Pub Of The Year, the Don bar, is a lifeline for many military veterans.

And even now during lockdown, landlady Julie Cooper refuses to turn her back on her elderly regulars.

When the boozer closed its doors weeks ago, D-Day veteran Tommy Trotter, 99, who suffers from dementia, still turned up the next day — and every day since.

So Julie, 55, lets him sit in the seat he occupied daily for eight years while she makes him lunch and a pint — making sure to keep social distancing.

The Don bar is a lifeline for many military veterans - and the winner of The Suns Pub Of The Year
North News and Pictures
The Don bar is a lifeline for many military veterans – and the winner of The Sun's Pub Of The Year[/caption]

North News and Pictures
Landlady Julie visits regulars at their homes to take them meals and deliver shopping, and chats online into the early hours with others to keep them company[/caption]

Two-thirds may close

PUBS have been praised for the way they have rallied round for local communities.

Don O'Flanaghan, of Pub Aid, which highlights the good landlords do, said: "Many licensees are putting people above profit, despite facing huge uncertainty themselves.

"A new survey shows that if the industry has to do six months lockdown, two-thirds of pubs won't survive.

"Our High Streets and villages would be much poorer places without pubs.

"We hope that when the restrictions are lifted, customers will support those landlords who helped their local communities during the crisis."

She visits other regulars at their homes to take them meals and deliver shopping, and chats online into the early hours with others to keep them company.

Julie opened her pub in Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham, eight years ago and decorated it with military memorabilia.

Veterans soon came to regard the Don War Memorial Bar as a second home.

Julie says: "The night we closed for lockdown was one of the most emotional of my life.

"People came from miles away to say goodbye and I spent the night in floods of tears.

The Heathcock, Cardiff

THE beer taps may be still but staff at The Heathcock village pub are still churning out tasty meals and fun quizzes to keep locals going.

The gastro pub in Llandaff, near Cardiff, relies on local lamb and beef suppliers – who face going out of business if orders dry up – so decided to put together meat boxes to take out to customers.

Manager Guy Ennever, 30, says: "We have to keep the money trickling down. It gives us an income and keeps the farmers going."

Guy has also been running online pub quizzes.

He says: "It's great, everyone gets to see each other and we have the same kind of banter that went on in the bar.

"The Government has been very supportive but the funds aren't going to last for ever.

"If we can't reopen as a pub then we may have to consider being an off-licence or grocery shop."

Regular Jeff Morgan, 59, adds: "The pub is doing a great job keeping everyone in touch.

"The British pub has been around for hundreds of years.

"Coronavirus won't stop the tradition of meeting friends there for a drink when this is over."

"But the next day Tommy arrived at the door because that's what he has done every day for eight years.

"He sat there for five hours in his pyjamas the other day, happily looking around him at all the military memorabilia on the walls.

"The isolation is hard for everyone but for some of my veterans it is particularly hard to cope with.

"And now that the bar is closed they have lost their lifeline.

Eccleston Arms, St Helens, Lancs

WHEN lockdown hit, Andrew Mikhail decided to use his pub to help the community – and even has comedian Johnny Vegas as one of his team of volunteers.

Andrew turned The Eccleston Arms into a shop for NHS staff and key workers, offering cost-price food, and makes meals for vulnerable regulars.

Comedian Johnny has been out delivering these food parcels giving a welcome surprise to many when they open their door.

Andrew, 46 says: "My dad was a doctor, I know how hard those guys work.

"I barely saw him as a kid because he was doing so much for others, so I want to help the NHS staff at this time.

"It's about giving back. I've got staff here that I'm paying, and with all this going on not many people are coming in, though we are doing takeaways.

"As a way of giving back to the community who have always supported me, I thought they can come here, buy what they need and that money goes to keep my staff.

"The community helped me, now I'm helping the community back. That's what it is all about."

"I can't abandon them so I'm up until 4am chatting and answering messages online just so they have someone to talk to.

"I'll take meals and do shopping for them, anything that will see them through this awful time."

But while Julie is working flat out to help others, she is running out of money herself.

A £10,000 grant she received will be eaten up by rent and bills within a couple of months.

The pub was also in the process of moving to new premises, so in June Julie will be saddled with two sets of rent and bills to pay.

Veterans have come to regard the Don War Memorial Bar, which is decorated with military memorabilia, as a second home
Evening Gazette
Veterans have come to regard the Don War Memorial Bar, which is decorated with military memorabilia, as a second home[/caption]

More acts of kindness

HUNDREDS of pubs are also doing what they can to help others:

  • Old Abbey Taphouse, Manchester, has launched a community radio station where locals can make their own shows. It has also launched a free hot meals service and delivers veg boxes.
  • Brickmakers Arms, Newton Solney, Derbys, allows one customer in at a time to fill containers with real ale or cider.
  • Crosswells in Langley, West Mids, is selling takeaway Sunday roasts for the cheaper price of £6.
  • The Angel & Crown, Richmond, South West London, serves 30 hot meals a day to the homeless.
  • The Antelope in Surbiton, South West London, makes 200 meals a day for vulnerable regulars.
  • Furloughed manager Cee-Jay Williams, of the Junction Tap in Woking, Surrey, is making clips for PPE masks for NHS staff.
  • The Orange Tree in Baldock, Herts, has become a community store selling groceries, fruit and veg. Priority goes to key workers, who can reserve items to collect.

She says: "My veterans are my main concern but I'm also very worried for my own future.

"So many businesses won't come through this and all I can do is hope and pray, for the sake of the people who rely on us, that the Don Bar survives.

"We have to keep going, there are a lot of livelihoods at stake."

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