How the Covid-19 pandemic nearly made a micro pub even smaller but a layby saved the day.
When Rob and Adam decided to open a micro pub 18 months ago, they could have never imagined they’d be heading into a global pandemic.
Just a week after the first birthday of the Old Post Office micro bar in Ingleton, Rob and Adam were forced to close after Coronavirus took hold and the UK went into lockdown.
But, the support of North Yorkshire County Council and Highways has eased the load and sparked a creative solution, helping the bar for the better.
The pair decided to buy the Old Post Office in Ingleton to transform into a trendy microbar – providing a community spot for people in the small village to gather.
Although they were bartending novices, they admit they had plenty of experience on the other side of the bar and loved quirky places to get a drink, which is what they wanted from the Old Post Office.
The pair, who had 36 combined years in the civil service, invested their life savings into the Old Post Office.
They wanted to create a centre point in the village where people could socialise and use as a community hub.
And, as the name suggests, the microbar was once the centre of the village in a different way – from 1930 until 2014, the Old Post Office was indeed the village Post Office.
For a number of reasons, it was closed down and shortly afterwards the building was bought and resurrected into a café and bar serving wine and food.
Rob and Adam then purchased the bar in 2019, affectionately known as the OPO and put their own stamp on it.
They had a successful first year, but then in March the Covid-19 pandemic hit in full force.
Adam said: “When the pandemic happened it was very worrying for a number of reasons, as you might expect.
“We invested our life savings into the OPO but we were determined to carry on. You have to adapt very quickly which is what I hope we did.
“We stayed open as an off licence and we also offered home deliveries for people who couldn’t get out. It was not just about delivering nice drinks, more importantly it brought some normality to our customers and us, it was a chance to check in and make sure everyone was ok and coping.
“We wanted to keep the Old Post Office fresh in people’s minds too and remind people we were still here when the pandemic was over, too.”
The pair were relieved when the Government announced they could reopen from July 4.
Because of social distancing, their capacity was reduced inside by more than 50 percent – meaning the micro bar became even smaller.
But, as the Old Post Office has layby space outside they decided to see if they could put tables and chairs outside to expand capacity.
Adam said: “We spoke to Craven licencing and North Yorkshire Highways, who were both excellent to deal with and very supportive with our idea.
“They came out and spoke to us about what we wanted to do, they inspected the layby and spoke to the other business owners next to us.
“We were told to fill out an application but it all happened fast and very smoothly.
Rob said: “Having the space outdoors is excellent because it’s increased our capacity making up for the shortfall inside allowing us to open properly.
“At full capacity in normal times, we can fit 40 people inside, but with social distancing and table service, that reduces to just 18.
“Having the space to the front outside means we can have another ten customers increasing our capacity – that’s good for people using the Old Post Office to socialise and good for us because it means we are still viable as a business.
“Because capacity is reduced so much inside, we would really struggle without the extra space outdoors.
“Something that we really like as well is how European and cosmopolitan it looks. The barriers look fantastic and it gives the village a proper centre – I feel like the space has been reclaimed for the villagers to enjoy themselves rather than just been used for parking.
“It’s really wonderful that the government has encouraged local Councils and Authorities to be so supportive to small businesses in this way. As a new business we missed out on other Government assistance on offer but this has been an absolute god send.
“Customer safety is paramount to us. We have screens, signage, alcohol gel, a continuous cleaning regime and we are constantly ensuring everyone is safe and happy.”
Rob added: “We run the bar, but the customers really make it, so making them feel at ease in the bar is the biggest priority for us.
Since the Old Post Office re-opened, Rob and Adam are happy to report customers are back enjoying the community spirit, thanks to help from Highways and North Yorkshire County Council.
Cllr Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has hit everyone hard, but the last thing anyone wants to see is a local business struggling – especially one which gives the community as much joy as this one.
“This is an example of how a bit of teamwork and joined up thinking can really make a difference and turn a problem into something of a success.
“It’s brilliant to hear Rob and Adam got so much out of the work Highways have done – so thank you to them for keeping a community spot open for people to enjoy.”