Ellesmere owner looks forward to 2022 after pandemic took business overnight

Lois, left, and her family at the Red Lion, Ellesmere

The writing had been on the wall for nearly two weeks, with the Prime Minister urging people to avoid pubs and theaters but providing no hospitality assistance.

“Our revenue plummeted, we had endless cancellations and yet we were still paying staff and other expenses. It was pretty scary,” she said.

“When the lockdown came, at least we knew our staff would be getting furlough and energy and other bills would go down.”

Lois and her partner Simon had run the pub/hotel for four years and had many development plans which needed to be put on hold.

With two children – Summer who is now 12 and Talon, nine – Lois said for the first time they could enjoy real family life, hard with hours of unsociable pubs.

“We spent a lot of time together, family time. We played in the garden and the kids cooked a lot – it was something I had never had time to do with them before,” she said.

“They had home schooling which they were fantastic for and all the credit to Ellesmere Primary School, they were constantly in touch to do homework for them.”

The couple have opened rooms for essential workers such as nurses, doctors and caregivers who have come from across the UK to work in the area.

“It was very little contact with them and no food, but they were so grateful to have a place to stay.”

From the start of the lockdown, the Red Lion offered take-out meals to grateful customers.

“Our suppliers like Home Farm Butchers in Overton were fantastic as queuing for the supermarket was ridiculous. I just had a member of staff help me cook as we wanted to make sure we were also in safe as possible. Sometimes I made deliveries – it got me out of the house!

They also supported local Meals on Wheels – providing two-course meals six days a week.

“The people we delivered to were as grateful to see someone for a chat outside the window as they were for the meal. I met so many people,” Lois said.

The popular Sunday night quiz has gone live. Simon asked the questions and the teams participated over the internet for about 16 weeks.

“So many people tried to join on the first Sunday we planted our Facebook page,” Lois said.

“It was a great way to keep in touch with everyone.

“We had to rewire our brains and think differently about how we could do things. We made VE Day baskets and sold about 100 for people holding street parties on their doorsteps.

“As the restrictions started to ease, we set up more tables outside and then inside with social distancing, screens and strict hygiene and of course masks and table service.

“Things were constantly changing and that made us think outside the box. It was hard but there are things that we have changed that we will keep. We won’t be going back.

She says she can’t praise the staff enough.

“Our staff have been and are amazing. They had to endure so much, had their own battles, and we got through together as a family. Customer support has also been amazing. Sometimes I think I’m too strict and clinical, but people tell me how safe they feel here – I have to admit I cried a few times over the lovely comments.

“The Ellesmere business community has also been very supportive. We are really looking forward to 2022. Covid has taught us that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

“Simon and I love what we do and overnight it was taken away from us.

“Now we are looking forward to booking entertainment again and organizing a lot of things in the year. There are also a lot of things happening in the city that we are looking forward to, including the jubilee and the return of the carnival for the first time in two years.

“The past two years have given us a new hunger and a new enthusiasm. When you run a pub it’s a lifestyle not a job and it will be so nice to have it back as it used to be.

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