Apocalypse and beyond…

Posted: March 30, 2020 in Uncategorized

Well, firstly I must apologise for it being so long since I wrote my last blog post.  I know a lot of you enjoy my infinite rambling. So much has happened in the past year – we’ve been through a lot as a business and we emerged (with a lot of help from you all)  alive and kicking from near closure. We were just about standing on our own two feet again and BANG!!! The doors are shut and in 24hours the world has totally changed.  We are however, all sailing in this boat together, facing the storm head on so to speak,  side by side (although 2m apart) …

So this is the story so far from our side of The Brickies, and what we are up to whilst under lockdown…  STOP HERE!!!  Go and put the kettle on and grab a custard cream or two…this is gonna be a long one!! 

We actually closed our doors on the Tuesday before the government announced forced closure on pubs and clubs.  It came at a time when Boris Johnson advised the general public to stay away from such establishments.  As expected,  The moment that was announced, the cancellations started rolling in and the most of our customers stayed away.

As always, we wanted to uphold our principles and our duty of care to our customers and bands – It was clear to us at that time, that it was vital we preserve the health and wellbeing of everyone that uses the venue by closing and not encouraging them to come and socialise in potentially dangerous environment.  

Financially, it was always going to be a nightmare, at that point, the government hadn’t forced closure, they had just advised the public to stay away which left all pubs and venues in a state of bewildered limbo. Even though we had stuck by our morals and shut our doors,  we still had the rent to pay, the bills to pay and staff that needed their wages. How the hell were we going to do that with no money coming in??  Needless to say all three of us had hardly any sleep that night.  This evil, relentless virus, the worry over our loved ones, especially of those most vulnerable, the worry of losing our beloved Brickies that we had fought so hard to keep, the worry of paying the bills and paying our staff team who are relying on us to put food on their tables..

Over the day Mum, Em and I got up early and started calling people,  we called our regional manager from the pubco, asking for rent deferral, funnily enough we weren’t alone – every other pub in the country was doing the same thing, she was awaiting instruction from head office.  Many cups of coffee later, we had managed to suspend payments on suppliers and service contracts. It was a start at least.  That day, we managed to knock our weekly outgoings down considerably.  However, there were some companies that wouldn’t defer payments, it meant that to pay staff and those companies, it was going to cost us almost £3,000 a week just to remain shut.  I don’t have to tell you that many weeks of that with no generated revenue means certain death for the business… At this point, there was no sign of any help from the state…

We cleared out all the stock and locked it away, gave away some short dated stock to local pubs who were still open, cleaned the lines, turned off the gas and electric and stood back to look at our bare, naked bar…this was scary as hell.

Another night with no sleep….

By now, I have no idea what day it was (still dont) but it was the next day all the same – with social distancing measures in place, Mum, Em and I were meeting via the means of modern technology – Em at this point was feeling poorly, she had a really bad cough and cold but no temperature, we told her she should be in bed resting but, she’s a stubborn bugger and there were things to sort.  The government finally made the decision to force closure for pubs bars and clubs and they announced measures to help businesses, and also the job retention scheme. We were advised to furlough our employees. So we spoke to all the staff and put them all on furlough.  Theoretically this works – In reality, it means whilst the staff are at home and not working, we have to pay them every week as we would normally and the government will reimburse us through HMRC.  However – bearing in mind our wages bill is over £1000 every week, we cant yet apply for the scheme as the guidance isn’t in place and we have been told that this will not come through until at least the first week of May.  So 12 weeks of paying our staff on top of everything else thats coming out could take everything we have and put us into the red and then some…

So – what about the small business grants the government have put into place I hear you cry?  Well again, a great idea from Rishi and when it’s up and running will help us all.  But the important word is WHEN!  We called the council to ask about applying and no one there had even heard of it let alone have any information on when to apply.

The next day (could be one of seven) Em spoke to a very nice man in the business rates department in the council who told us that the guidance for application for the grants hasn’t reached them yet and even when they do finally get it, chances are the money will not be available until possibly the end of JUNE!  By the end of the week Ei (now Stonegate) had agreed to suspend our rent for four weeks…phew. That was a relief, at least we could pay the staff.   Em is still very poorly, been given antibiotics.

So what now???  Well, we can but hope that all this guidance and help comes through quicker than they are saying. We will continue as long as we can emptying out the water from our leaking boat, with our bucket that has a hole in it.  But we still had so many questions…

If our rent is suspended for 4 weeks, what happens when that 4 weeks have passed? will they suspend it again?  Are they then going to want the rent for that period the minute we open again…? because if we are shut for 12 weeks, we are going to owe them in excess of £15,000 for rent alone, without paying our last beer bills… how do we pay it?  What about all our stock that will be out of date?  Will Em, Mum and I be able to furlough ourselves?

We spent the next couple of days trying to get our questions answered, and are still trying.  The problem is everything happened so fast, nobody knows and most are making it up as they go along.  So far though, so good. We are hanging in there!

Em is still feeling rough, antibiotics dont seem to be working.

That is the business aspect of it, and I think its good to be open and honest about these things – we dont know if we’ll make it out of this storm intact, no business does, but were gonna fight tooth and nail to keep it afloat, I think at this point, we have to shut our eyes and hope for the best of all this.

Right – Lets talk about the positives – 

  1. I have a very happy dog! He is at my side 24/7 (Just where he wants me), he has never had so many cuddles and walks, play time in the garden and doggy conversations  YES! we really do, do that!)
  2.  I may lose more weight!! – I have been walking for an hour EVERY day because Im  allowed to – not because I have to.  I also have been doing Yoga (see link at bottom if
    anyone wants to join in). I have also been using my cross trainer.. Whilst I have enough food, I have actually been very careful about what Im eating as I dont want to have to go to the supermarket unless ABSOLUTELY necessary.
  3.  I’m actually getting to read a book finally.
  4.  I almost have a normal body clock.  I’ve started going to bed before midnight and
    waking up early – my poor body is wondering what the hell is going on.  If and I return to my usual working hours, Im going to be in a right muddle – you all might need to prod me as you walk past…
  5.  I can hear the birds! and its beautiful…
  6.  I have huge faith in our community and the human race… the good in our species
    seriously out-ways the bad. There are some amazing humans out there!!


And what are we doing now???

well….   (maybe get another cuppa at this point)…

Going back to the night we closed, we had many conversations with customers and bands and the most common worry of many of them was the impact that social isolation would have on their mental health. How would they cope not being able to see and talk to other humans?  For many, music is a form of therapy, it offers a way to destress and release tension, to lose yourself in a song leaves no room for other thoughts.

That night, after we locked the venue,  Mum Em and I,  sat and chatted about a plan to ensure our customers and bands remained connected to each other.  If they couldn’t come to the music, how could we take it to them?

We came up with the crazy idea of a Brickmakers Internet Radio Station. It’s something I had wanted to do for a long time, but never had the time to sort it out.  In theory, this was a brilliant Idea – how to do it was another matter.  Being a Sound Engineer and muso myself, I had access to lots of equipment and a computer, there had to be a way.  So over the next three days I immersed myself in online tutorials and software and got lots of info from friends (thanks Ross Patzelt)  and by the Friday I was all ready to go.  I did a practice show on the Sunday evening and we went live on the Monday with the first show.

Now, exactly one week later, I am presenting four live shows every week that showcases local bands and have been having live phone interviews with band members. Listeners can chat with me online to ask questions or make song requests.

It dawned on me that we could use the radio for so much more than music, it was a way to reach out to our community.  Simon Stokes (Vicar at Sprowston Parish Churches) is a good friend, and we had been speaking about how he was feeling having to shut the doors of the church to his parishioners, whilst he understands the necessity, it goes against everything the church represents.  I got to thinking about using the radio to allow him communicate with the local community.  So now two mornings every week Local vicars Simon and Dean call in to the show for a virtual coffee and a chat.  It gives local listeners a chance to reach out for help, be it needing help with shopping, collecting medication or just needing a friendly chat.  We also broadcast the prerecorded Sunday Communion Service twice on Sundays.

In all we are getting over 100 listeners per show and the reaction has been very positive. It enables us to bring local music to people in our fine city, whilst hopefully making them feel a little less alone and isolated.

We do not currently broadcast on Fridays and Saturdays as we present our Live ‘NOT LIVE’ sessions on our facebook page.  These are streamed recordings we have made of live events on our stages over the last year.  This has been very popular, with the viewers posting photos of themselves watching the streamed shows and dancing in the living rooms – if you’re watching them and having a boogie, send me your videos or photos! We want to see you all rockin’ out to the Brickies bands in your living rooms!  You can post on our facebook page or tag us on instagram

So thats what I am doing with my time right now…. Mother is well but isolating at home, Em is dealing with emails from her bed (can’t keep her down!) she is better than she was but still feeling a bit rough, but the docs are keeping a close eye on her – will keep you all posted.  I promise to write a blog post at least once a week, at least that way you wont have such a mammoth tomb to read next time lol…

In the mean time folks, we promise to keep bringing the music to you, albeit in a slightly different format. I hope you are all staying safe, dont forget to reach out if you’re struggling YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We are all here, you can contact us if you need any help by email or phone:-

info@thebrickmakers.com

Radio (Call or Text)  +44 7537 10 30 22

The radio station schedule is below – tune in and come and say hello, would love to hear from you all.

Sending you all lots of Brickies love…

Charley, Pam and Em xxxx

BRICKMAKERS LIVE ON AIR – www.thebrickmakers.com/radio
Radio Schedule!
Monday  8pm – 10pm  BRICKMAKERS LIVE ON AIR – Local music and chat.
Tuesday 10am – 11am – More Tea Vicar – Sprowston Parish Vicars Simon and Dean
Tuesday 9pm -11pm – A.I.R Events presents BOOMBOX – local bands, music and interviews
Wednesday 4pm – 6pm  – BRICKMAKERS LIVE ON AIR – local music and live interviews
Thursday 10am – 11am – More Tea Vicar – Sprowston Parish Vicars Simon and Dean
Thursday 9pm – 11pm – THE LATE SHOW – Local music, requests and local chat
Sunday 10am – Sprowston Parish Church Communion Service
Sunday 6pm – Sprowston Parish Church Communion Service
Sunday 9pm – 11pm  THE LATE SHOW – Anything goes request show.
Kerry is offering these classes online, its superb for the body, but even better for the mind and soul.  They are open to everyone but she is asking for donations via paypal if you take part. All info is on the site.

 

Comments
  1. Ruth says:

    Great read Charley! I’ve got everything crossed for your guys and that amazing pub of yours!

  2. John Hook says:

    Well done all of you, let’s look forward to when this all ends …. John, Marc and Rob Hook

  3. John Vasco says:

    Well done to you all. Stay positive. Stay safe!

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