Interview: Lockdown life at The Dog & Gun in Keyham

the dog & gun keyham

Angela and Jason took over running The Dog & Gun in Keyham in the middle of the pandemic. In one of the toughest years ever to be running a pub, they’ve found new ways to integrate with the village community through takeaway meals and even setting up a village shop.

We caught up with Angela and Jason to find out how life has been at the pub, how they’re managing through the lockdown and what their plans are in a post-Covid world.

How would you describe The Dog and Gun for anyone who’s never visited?

The Dog and Gun is a picturesque pub in the beautiful village of Keyham, approximately five miles from Leicester. The pub is best described as a destination site due to its location. It acts as a perfect stop off for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, all of which frequent us. We’re rapidly gaining a reputation for the quality of our food, of which is offered on a delivery or takeaway service at the moment. When open under normal circumstances, we have a passion for real ale, customer service and the friendly atmosphere. We pride ourselves in being the hub of the community.

You took over the running of the pub in September 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, how big a challenge was that?

We moved into the pub in September 2020 and whilst most pubs have suffered greatly during the pandemic, we would be lying if we said that we had. On the contrary, it is our belief that the pandemic has helped us improve the reputation of the pub, certainly within the village. The pub had been closed since the first lockdown in March by the time we reopened its doors on September 18th. First on our agenda was to open all day, offer the community some continuity, something it had been missing for several years. Next step was to build relations with a village that felt alienated from the only amenity it has. We had already been speaking to a John Hughes who writes the village magazine, it was then a case of simply talking to people and introducing ourselves. From the moment we moved in, we had very firm idea’s and plans of how we wanted to run the pub. Those plans included introducing a village shop, offering a takeaway service, similar to our previous business venture and becoming somewhere that people felt not only safe but welcome.

the dog & gun keyham

What was it about The Dog & Gun that attracted you to take it on during lockdown?

Our main attraction to this particular pub is its building style and location. We had been in talks with Everards for almost two years to help us find the right pub for us. The ideal site would have to be safe for our two young kids to grow up in, we wanted it to be community focused, where everyone knew each other. We also needed somewhere that could offer adequate catering facilities to enable us to provide the kind of meals we pride ourselves in. Finally, we wanted somewhere that would be our final pub that would see us into our retirement years. Then in July 2020, we stumbled upon The Dog & Gun. Following a viewing of the site, we turned the pub down on the basis that we were in the middle of a pandemic, the fact it had been closed so long and the amount of work it would need to make it a success, not to mention the amount of finance required. We certainly had our doubts, however Everards refused to give up on us. Three weeks later, our now area manager gave us a call to arrange a meeting. That meeting led us to where we are now, running a fantastic community led pub.

How have you adapted your offer during lockdown? 

Obviously, we have had to adapt how we operate to survive. Its been real hard work! Fortunately, the power of predominantly social media and word of mouth has worked in our favour. At the beginning of October we had to start a brand new Facebook page, we also had to change the pub phone number and deal with the Google business page, those alone presented huge challenges and to this day we still have people complaining they can’t reach us through the phone because they’re calling the wrong number or viewing the wrong Facebook page! Each month I also write an update for Keyham News and I have a list of customers phone numbers that I then add to our WhatsApp group.

Since opening you’ve been impacted by ongoing restrictions and closures, how have you managed to stay integrated into the village community?

We opened a village shop inside the pub, selling essentials such as tinned food, toilet roll, bread and eggs. This grew to include fresh meat, cheese and newspapers. We offer a shopping service that is free of charge to the residents of Keyham who are unable to get to the supermarket because of the current situation. Following on from the success of our Christmas markets, from the end of this month we will be holding a market every Saturday from 8am until 2pm. At Christmas, we helped to raise over £200 towards making scrubs for the NHS. We also donated several hundred pounds worth of presents to three children who’s parents were struggling financially. To prevent wastage of stock, I made various types of Christmas hampers. They ranged in price from £15.95 to £59.95. The majority, of hampers made were to customer specifications. In total, I made and sold 52 hampers. They’re something that I will do again come Easter and Christmas.

Whilst I genuinely believe what we’ve done so far here has been a success, I think our biggest achievement to date would have to be our takeaway Christmas lunch. At the beginning of December, we advertised our offer of a 3 course lunch for £19.95. Such was the demand, we then started taking bookings for Christmas Eve for people to reheat on Christmas day! Christmas Eve we did 35 covers and on Christmas Day we did 132 in the space of three hours. Yes, we did have staff on to help us that day but customers also helped by turning up on time. Again, next Christmas we will be offering the takeaway service on our lunches. It is hoped that by doing so, we’ll keep our drinkers happy as well as those who are looking for somewhere that does food on Christmas Day.

the dog & gun keyham

When lockdown finally eases, what plans do you have for the pub for this summer and beyond?

When lockdown eventually eases and life returns to some sort of normality, we hope to be able to offer all of our summer plans such as beer festivals, weekly BBQ’s, summer fetes not to mention advertise the pub as a wedding venue, of which Myself and my other half, Jason are using as a tester when we get married on August 4th this year. We plan to restart our weekly quiz, monthly live music events not forgetting hosting charity events. We have so much we want to do and providing restrictions lift, we’ll be going ahead with them.

Whilst we are no where near our normal level of takings each week, such is our success that we have now started to bring back our staff. They’re especially needed at the weekend when demand is particularly high.

How have Everards been to work with throughout these months?

For anyone looking to take on a pub, from a personal perspective, look no further than Everards. I have been in the pub trade over twenty years now working with various breweries and pub companies (I actually started my career in pubs with Everards, running The Paget Arms in Loughborough!) Unlike other companies Everards ARE very family orientated, being a family run business themselves, that philosophy is at the core of any dealings with their business partners. Unlike other pubco’s, you can speak to the actual person who owns the company, Richard Everard. Should you have any problems, Everards will do all they can to help you. Throughout this pandemic,

Everards in short, have gone above and beyond for their licensees. They have shown such loyalty and support and in return, we will do the same. I started my pub career with Everards, I will end it with them.

the dog & gun keyham

Where can people find out more about what’s happening at the pub?

If you would like to find out more about what we do and what offers we have on, you can find us on Facebook.