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Fancy eating in this pub’s new beach huts?

PUBLISHED: 19:30 17 September 2020

Customer Colin Patmore enjoying the new beach hut area Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Customer Colin Patmore enjoying the new beach hut area Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The Woolpack near Bury St Edmunds has put a tropical twist on socially distanced dining.

The Woolpack's new beach huts help ensure people can social distance while at the pub Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe Woolpack's new beach huts help ensure people can social distance while at the pub Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Graham Hindle, owner of The Woolpack in Fornham St Martin, has come up with an ingenious way to ensure customers are able to not only socially distance, but also feel cosy in the comfort of their own space.

The award-winning pub, which is located just outside of Bury St Edmunds, has recently erected a series of colourful beach huts in its beer garden, allowing people to still enjoy a day at the pub while remaining in their bubbles.

Explaining the reason behind the beach huts, Graham said: “Besides the look of them, we knew that if we were going to have two-metre social distancing, we were going to lose table space in the restaurant - so we thought of putting huts outside.

“The intention originally was to put more in, but as they were handbuilt, we weren’t going to get them ready in time, so we thought we’ll go with four and see how we get on - and it’s totally transformed the place.”

Kitted out with sofas, chairs, tables and cushions, the beach huts ensure people remain in their bubble of six or less Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNKitted out with sofas, chairs, tables and cushions, the beach huts ensure people remain in their bubble of six or less Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The beach huts, which were custom-built by Culford business SIS Sheds, are painted in an array of vibrant colours and can fit up to six people in them - ideal for the current lockdown restrictions which currently prohibits groups of more than six meeting socially.

“Some have got sofas and chairs in them with casual tables, for more laid-back dining, and one has a formal table in it with four chairs, which we could make into a six.”

Other amenities within the beach huts include USB ports and mini speakers.

“One of the local heart charities recently had a lunch meeting in one of our huts with their laptops. If you wanted a quiet meeting, or something one-to-one, the huts are perfect for that.”

The colourful beach huts, provided by SIS Sheds, give customers a seaside feel - without the sand! Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe colourful beach huts, provided by SIS Sheds, give customers a seaside feel - without the sand! Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

But with summer nearly over, are the huts here to stay? “They’re certainly permanent, and have all been painted, so will be good as gold for a while. We’ve had them properly roofed and there’s special safety glass fitted in them, too.”

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To ensure the safety of both its staff and loyal clientele, The Woolpack has both an outside bar, as well as table service, in order to minimise people passing through the pub and restaurant.

“We’ve got an undercover outside bar hatch, where people go to the main bar and can order from there. Or we can go to the huts and take orders, and then we’ll take the food and drinks to the tables.”

The Woolpack employee Rosie Grant chatting to Colin Patmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe Woolpack employee Rosie Grant chatting to Colin Patmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The pub – which took home the Beer Quality Award at the 2019 Eat Suffolk Food & Drink Awards – has also had a slight overhaul in terms of its menu, but is still ensuring The Woolpack maintains its high quality of food that customers have come to expect over the years.

“We used to be more of a gastro pub, but when we had the lockdown, we had so much fresh food in the building that got wasted as it was Mother’s Day weekend, and we lost so much money.

“So we made a conscious decision to go down the line of still doing fresh food, such as fresh fish, burgers and chicken burgers, but we now also serve nachos, chilli, curries – those sorts of dishes. We still have three chefs working here full-time, so we’ve got steaks on the menu too, but we’re keeping it very simple at the moment.”

Also on the menu are homemade chips, halloumi burgers and vegan-friendly meals such as mushroom burgers and chillis.

The Woolpack in Fornham St Mary now has a row of beach huts in the beer garden for its customers to enjoy Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe Woolpack in Fornham St Mary now has a row of beach huts in the beer garden for its customers to enjoy Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The new menu items, much like the beach huts, have proven especially popular with both new and old customers alike.

“We’re just trying to mix it up a little bit - and to be fair, it’s working. We may well just stick to what we’re doing.

“I previously said we’ll start our roast dinners in September, but the weather’s been too good to, so we will probably do those in October.”

If you’re interested in heading to The Woolpack to try the huts out for yourself, Graham suggests you book ahead as they’re already proving popular – with word spreading fast across Suffolk.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in them already - I’ve answered four requests this morning alone for this weekend. People have come down, taken photos and put them on social media, so it’s definitely getting out there. It’s been really good for us.”

For more information, call The Woolpack on 01284 753380.


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