Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Pub staff receive mystery plaque for lockdown service

Pub staff receive mystery thank-you plaque for food service during lockdown

A PUB landlord and his staff have been given a plaque by a mystery admirer to say thank-you for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ted Docherty, who runs the White Hart in Nettlebed, says the gift will take pride of place at the High Street pub.

At the height of the lockdown, the Brakspear pub offered groceries and home deliveries to the local community as well as a takeaway service.

This was an invaluable service to villagers, particularly those who are elderly or live on their own and had no one else to do their shopping.

The plaque, which was sent to the pub in the post, reads: “To all the legends at the White Hart, here is a little memento from your friends and family in Nettlebed to thank you and congratulate you on your incredible covid-19 efforts in the spring of 2020.

“You brought help to the needy and cheer to the down. We will always remember that. Thank you, you are heroes amongst men and women. Lots of thanks, even more love— The Nettlebedders. You did such a good job that, in fact, we aren’t all that scared of Covid-20.”

Mr Docherty said: “It was just addressed to the pub and we have no idea who it came from but we were genuinely surprised.

“I appreciated it as soon as I saw it and had to wipe a tear from my eye — I guess that is the problem with being a passionate person. I think it is awesome.

“We were honoured to do what we did for the village during lockdown. It was hard just to sit there and see your community being scared to get the sort of things we all normally take for granted.

“The restaurant had closed but all our suppliers were still sending out stock so it seemed like a natural marriage.

“It was something to keep us busy and at the centre of the village. It grew very quickly and we ended up having to set up a website because we just couldn’t control the amount of traffic.

“I can say with my hand on my heart that we didn’t do it to make profit, we just wanted to keep the village supplied.

“It felt frustrating at times and also tiring but it was always worth it. It kept our focus away from the news when there wasn’t a lot of good going on in the world. It gave us purpose.

“The plaque is massively welcome and we will give it pride of place when we work out where to put it. It is something we are all proud of.”

Mr Docherty, who has run the pub for the last decade and has also run the Crown in Playhatch for nine of the last 10 years, started the takeaway service by offering a meal of the day.

One day, he received more than 120 orders for fish and chips.

It took less than two days for the pub website to be updated so that residents could order food.

Mr Docherty, who runs the pub with his wife Karen and daughter Danielle, said: “It felt really hard at the beginning because we are a pub and restaurant and we were trying to become an online shop but after six weeks the muscle memory made it easier to do 60 to 70 orders a day.

“I’ve been in Nettlebed for a long time and I’ve never seen a community spirit like we had during covid, especially in the early weeks when people weren’t able to go anywhere.

“It created a greater sense of community and maybe something that has been missing from our lives for too long. You start to know customers by their first name and you know where people live just by seeing their name on the orders.

“There was a list of people who were isolated and me and my head chef delivered when the other volunteers were too busy. The vast majority of people came and collected. We set up a table in the conservatory with the doors open and we were 2m away at all times.

“There are still people who are in isolation and we’re delivering too.”

The pub has continued to offer online food shopping and delivery since it re-opened when the lockdown restrictions were eased on July 4.

Mr Docherty said: “On our opening weekend, we weren’t concerned about how much money we made — our major concern was just to get it right from the perspective of social distancing, our one-way system and hand sanitisers.

“I would like to thank Joel Kirby, William Taplin, Josh Bewley, Owen Lowe and Sinead Hunter for their help.

“I’m eternally optimistic — I’m hoping that we will pull through this year. It is not in anyone’s interest to see pubs close.”

Emma Sweet, marketing manager for Brakspear, said: “Ted worked really hard during lockdown to look after the village, so it is lovely to see his efforts appreciated.

“Successful pubs are at the heart of their community .”

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