Manufactured storm clouds have gathered above Pembrokehire’s clifftops, at a place I know well.
They’re created by media interest in The Druidstone hotel’s membership scheme for non-guests who want an occasional drink in its popular bar. The Guardian sparked the interest on Friday, after a freelancer discovered the story whilst staying locally.
Those who know me well will know that I have close connections with this special place. I was lucky enough to grow up nearby, as my mum did. Angus, who runs the hotel, is a life-long friend. I worked there for his mum and dad in my teens and early 20s. I’ve had some of the most memorable times of my life there.
We were lucky to see in the new millennium with friends at the Dru’, while many people bristled at ‘rip off Britain’ paying small fortunes to hang their coats at packed night clubs. My dad celebrated his 50th and 60th birthdays there. When my grandather died in 1998, they let the family and close friends occupy the house’s farmhouse kitchen to celebrate his life.
Media types know the place while social posts of beers and sunsets over the bay are ubiquitous (coughs).
It’s no surprise that this decision (made ages ago) attracted attention, given some snarky comments on TripAdvisor and elsewhere. But I am surprised it’s news given the challenges businesses across the country face. This is hardly an outlier in the scheme of things.
Adjusting to the new normal
As their website explains, the membership scheme returned in response to conflicting pressures which many local businesses are struggling with.
COVID’s impact on the hospitality industry is severe, giving those who have worked through it plenty of reasons to rethink their businesses.
I know from conversations with Angus and Beth over the last couple of years that they didn’t take this decision lightly. They suspected some wouldn’t like it, but there are bigger issues at play here.
The stress of lockdown, furloughing staff and reopening as staycation rates rocket all need managing and take their toll.
No one can say if those who drop in while passing by will continue to come back. Club members, by the very nature of their investment in the place, probably will. In volatile and uncertain times, one option provides more certainty than the other.
Read the room
Those posting comments about elitism on TripAdvisor should read the room. The Druidstone is not a pub. We are living through a pandemic. Pembrokeshire’s economy is not alone in having taken a battering from it.
Last year, it experienced ‘three winters’ thanks to lockdown measures. That left a shortage of trained staff in many areas as visitor numbers surged back.
Businesses deserve our support rather than sniping because we can’t pop in for a cup of tea when we’re in the area. I’m sure comments ‘slating’ the Dru’ are outweighed by messages of support and people enquiring about membership.
Picture in header was taken by me, on the terrace in August 2018.