Pubs offer warmth and free meals to communities despite rising energy costs
Pubs are offering warm spaces and free meals to people struggling this winter despite being hit with a huge rise in their energy costs.
Businesses that have opened their doors to local communities warn they face a struggle to survive after being hit with extra charges from energy firms.
Gemma Gardener, who runs the York pub in Morecambe, said she had been charged a £2,000 installation fee and had been unable to switch suppliers
At the same time the pub has been offering free meals to schoolchildren to help families in the area.
"We're struggling with our bills but so are our customers and so we're being squeezed at both ends," said Gardener.
"Not knowing what we'll be charged month on month is incredibly scary. This isn't only our business but our home and we're at the mercy of our energy suppliers."
The Lamb in Newhall Swadlincote, Derbyshire, has started running free coffee mornings designed to help people who are isolated or live alone find somewhere social and warm for several hours.
Becky Barnett, who runs the Lamb, said: "For over a month we've been supporting a local community initiative offering free food and drinks to local people on Wednesday mornings. People can come into the pub, have a free hot meal and sit by our log fire in comfy chairs, no questions asked.
"When times are tough, and they certainly are right now, we want to be a place where people can come for help, and local people have been incredibly grateful of us opening our doors at no cost.
"At the same time, we've also seen our energy costs double in the last few months and it's a scary time for our business as well. We want to continue to provide a non-judgemental, warm space for people but we're facing our own rising costs."
The government has postponed an announcement on how energy bill support for businesses will continue beyond March 2023 until the New Year.
The British Beer & Pub Association said "unfair hidden charges" from energy suppliers meant the government's Energy Bill Relief Scheme in its current form was doing "little to help" businesses survive.
Industry watchdog Ofgem told The Caterer it was aware of the issues faced by operators and was working to determine if further action was needed.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The government's postponement of an announcement on future energy support until the New Year comes at a time when businesses are facing rising bills and rates that fluctuate daily.
"Operators thus need urgent clarity in order to make business-critical decisions for 2023 and, in the meantime, we urge Ofgem to continue to pressure energy suppliers to deal fairly with commercial customers and to clamp down on poor practices and unfair terms."
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