'It is heartbreaking' - Landlord of 'wet-led' pub that still can't open

Norfolk couple smiling for a selfie

Landlord and lady of The Bell in Fakenham, Jason and Rebecca Nicholson - Credit: Jason Nicholson

A pub landlord has told of the heartbreak of having to stay closed - because he does not serve food.

As we emerge from the national lockdown, and into the new Tier 2 restrictions, businesses across the region are reopening and hoping for some good trade over Christmas.

But Hempton Bell landlord Jason Nicholson cannot open his doors to the public, due to the pub being ‘wet-led’ - focused on serving drink, not food.

The pub does not have the facilities to adhere to the government guidelines saying pubs can only open if they serve drinks with a "substantial meal".

For many, this is not a problem, but ‘wet-led’ pubs without a kitchen have been placed in a difficult position.


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Mr Nicholson, who has been running the pub for the last 15 years with his wife Rebecca, said this year had been a series of challenges.

Norfolk couple smiling for a selfie

Landlord and lady of The Bell in Fakenham, Jason and Rebecca Nicholson - Credit: Jason Nicholson

“It is horrendous, it has been one thing after another,” he said.

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“I have seen stuff on the telly about how having a scotch egg with your pint counts, but I do not think that's the right thing to do at the moment.

“There are a lot of wet-led pubs in the same position: It is heartbreaking.

“There are not many wet-led pubs left, most of them are restaurants as well - there aren't many of us left.”

The landlord has tried to carry on operating throughout the year but found it was costing more to run a takeaway service during the first lockdown, then it was to close down until the lockdown was lifted.

Outdoor sitting area at The Bell

The Bell in Fakenham cannot open until Norfolk is moved to Tier 1 as they cannot provide substantial meal. - Credit: Jason Nicholson

Mr Nicholson said his customers were mostly retired people who came to the pub throughout the day to socialise with each other, rather than to come out for a meal.

With all that in mind, the pair decided to wait and hope for some more advice.

“We have to bite the bullet and see what happens,” he said.

“Luckily it’s only me and my wife doing it. That’s one saving grace, but it is worrying times.

“Just got to wait until times are better, and we just hope we can open before Christmas.”

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