Pub landlord Graham Proud likes to take care of his locals.
During the pandemic, he made loaves of bread and handed them out – socially distanced – so he could keep an eye on his customers’ welfare.
If an elderly local hasn’t been seen at the bar for a day or so, he will check in on them. He has a loyal and dedicated group of patrons who rely on him after three nearby pubs shut down in just seven months.
In short, Graham’s pub, The Seven Stars in Rugby, is the thriving heart of the community. But now it faces closure – leaving Graham and his wife Lisa without a home – because of the cost of living crisis.
‘To say we are struggling is an understatement,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘We’ve had Covid, and now it’s the utility bills. We haven’t made any money in the best part of 18 months.’
It is desperate times for the pub, which Graham has run for six years. He has taken every step possible to keep going, including selling his family home in 2020 to pay the bills. He now lives above the pub. He also took out a business loan, let the chef go and closed the kitchen to make ends meet, and even relies on kind locals who work for free behind the bar.
‘If the pub closes we won’t have a home,’ says Graham (Picture: Supplied)
‘We are now living off the house money,’ he explains. ‘But I am 60 years old. My whole working life is going to end up with me in a little flat on benefits with no money. It’s a massive worry. With the looming increase in energy bills, we are staring down the barrel of the gun.
‘No matter what, we will still have the loan to pay back. We would come out without a penny. We’ve built this business up from making a big loss, to being an award-winning pub. We are living in fear of January. That will be crunch time.’
The stress has hit Graham hard, as he adds: ‘I’ve been having counselling every week since I came out of lockdown. It is all the worry. I don’t sleep a full night. I’m drinking more – most days. It’s gone from having a 3.8% beer to reaching for the 14% glass of wine. It’s a coping mechanism. We used to go out every Monday on our day off, but we don’t do that any more because we can’t afford to.
‘If the pub closes, we won’t have a home. We’ll have no assets – nothing. I will come out without a bean and nowhere to live. I really didn’t expect to end my career with a worry like this, about whether or not I am going to have a roof over my head.’
‘With the looming increase in energy bills, we are staring down the barrel of the gun,’ says Graham (Picture: Supplied)
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