A Pub With Community: Nick takes us through the importance of the community to his business

Hospitality has been an integral part of my life. As a teenager I started washing up and as many of us do, I worked my way up the chain. Since then, I have owned or operated numerous hospitality venues across the country. Central to my philosophy has always been to put pubs where they belong – as a pillar of the community.

We live in a world of competition. I myself first and foremost am a businessman. However I choose to operate in a manor that does not compete with others but works with others.

I have found that in life there is enough to go around and that we create more to go round when we work together. The Angel though, it has been a special journey.

My grandfather always taught me that ‘if you look after the kids and the dogs, the pub will keep going’. He too was a publican. I have simply taken his theory and expanded it from children and dogs, to looking after the whole of the community and true to its word, the pub has kept busy.

Geo eluded to this in his own piece he wrote at the beginning of the week. It is true the pub was feeling rather sorry for itself when we all first got here and the the pub really turned a corner when we got involved with the local community. For me things began to accelerate after Liam had arranged for the team to participate in ROOT’s. A Vineyard initiative set up to help build the skills of those who had fallen upon hard times. You could feel the atmosphere in the pub growing, as a team people were beginning to recognise us on the streets and in the shops. Finally people were murmuring comments of positivity about the pub.

Slowly slowly numbers began to increase. Liam whilst an awful person for time keeping, was a notable networker. He had got us involved in the RichmondBID, and generally had begun building relationships with other local businesses.

However the most memorable moment for me, where I think we really turned the corner was in the summer. The local Church had come up with a wonderful initiative called ‘Hymns & Pimms’. A hymn service and an excuse to enjoy a glass of Pimms in the glorious sunshine of a summers Sunday afternoon.

For the first time people of all ages and demographics acknowledged the pub not with distaste but with intrigue.

I cant really explain that feeling. Its a mix of feelings to be honest. jubilance, relief. Even slightly smug… You spend so long being the man with the pub not fit for animals. For a long time before you could even explain yourself, you’d be shot down with memories of the pubs past existent. Now residents and neighbours were beginning to forget the past and show an interest in our plans for the future. It was at this point I knew the Angels future would be based on its community.

After Hymns & Pimms I added Hannah to the team. She and I had worked together at the Coach And Horses in Kew, so along with her knowledge of the industry she understood my philosophy and could contribute to how we wanted to move the Angel forward. Now; along with Liam and Geo we had a team that could achieve more than we could of imagined.

Summer soon became winter and with that came the Christmas period. We had continued throughout the Autumn with our ROOT’s partnership and true to it, the pubs reputation continued to grow. We found ourselves being noticed by local newspapers and social media influencers. Local business began using the pub as a genuine place to bring clients or enjoy their lunch breaks and finally locals were beginning to come in and enjoy what it was we had to offer.

As well as the business, Christmas is also a special time for me personally with my very own initiative. The Giving Tree. This initiative for those who don’t know is about about local people, such as regulars in the pub. Taking a tag from the Christmas tree which has a child in the local care systems name, age and what it is they would like for Christmas. Members of the community then purchase this present and drop it back to the pub, who pass this on to the care home. Ensuring every child in our community gets to open a present at Christmas.

I have personal experience of the care system, the processes and the children that experience it. So this is something close to my heart.

2019 was the first time we did this initiative at the Angel and honestly it could not have gone better. You blinked and every tag had gone.

Again; the pub was full. Every child we had taken responsibility for was going to get a present. The community had come together and again the Angel had been at the centre of it.

What could honestly be better? My business was thriving and we were helping people along the way.

I can not write an article like this and not mention our efforts in the first lockdown.

This was an incredible experience and something I certainly had never encountered in all my time within the industry. Lockdown was alien to all of us and for those with mental health issues even more so.

I could see services and support networks closing all around us and just felt compelled to do something. I have to say it was only meant to be a simple grab and go service providing hot meals. The way it transformed however was just incredible. Never did I expect to be providing for such high volumes or having to provide every basic essential most of us take for granted.

Before I knew it the pub was filled with donations of food, clothing, toiletries. Our social media had gone through the roof with comments of support and well wishing. I found myself giving interviews to people like Sky News and Robert Elms. It was a real whirlwind.

The most incredible part though was how the team of volunteers performed, especially my core team. Geo never let us down in the kitchen, we had Hannah who is just the most efficient organiser and Liam connected with local businesses and organisations to help source everything we needed and fundraise to cover the costs incurred. I also must mention the incredible team of volunteers outside my team whom, without their support nothing would have been possible.

It is difficult really to put into words how incredible it was seeing the whole community join together in times of hardship. We all supported one another and, when the time came to reopen. The community who supported us during lockdown to support the most vulnerable, then turned out to support the pub get back on its feet. For that I am so very grateful. That support means the pub as a business continues to thrive and therefore allows us to put more back into the community and that we are doing. Our current operation to provide breakfast for our communities most vulnerable in the latest lockdown continues to grow. It is our intention to continue this until such a time comes that our support is no longer required.

I think on a closing note; to any young and aspiring landlord/ landlady, my business operations are proof that working with your community brings you success. Pubs are ‘public houses’ and by definition are the centre of the community. Put your pub at the centre of your community and enjoy the success my team and I have.

No one knows what 2021 has in store for us, however it is important that we all stick to the rules and let the vaccine roll out proceed. I more than anyone want to see the doors to the Angel reopened. Until that time comes though the team and I are doing our best to keep in contact with you via our social media platforms so keep your eye out! Stay at home, stay safe and we’ll see you soon!

Nick Botting: Landlord, The Angel & Crown.

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