Village pub will reopen but landlady still 'treading cautiously'
- Credit: Danielle Booden
The landlady of a village pub will continue to "tread cautiously" before deciding when to reopen to customers.
In the meantime, Julie Oatham, who runs the Butcher's Arms in East Ruston, will continue preparing takeaway hot meals for people in the area.
Mrs Oatham, 55, started offering the service in March last year when lockdown meant many would not be able to enjoy a Sunday lunch out on Mothers Day.
A year and a half later, she is still almost single-handedly cooking from 60 to 80 hot meals for delivery or pick-up every Sunday.
Running a near “military operation”, Mrs Oatham, supported by her family and a team of volunteer drivers, has been delivering meals and offering pick-ups to people in East Runton, Sheringham and Mundesley.
While most other pubs across the county are trading again, the landlady, who has been running the pub for 30 years, has decided to not reopen the Butcher's Arms "just yet" and instead the takeaway meals will remain her priority.
She said: "We deliver to a lot of people who are still isolating, and who have been isolating even before Covid was here.
"There are still a lot of people saying they can't go out for one reason or another.
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"Many of them are old customers, people I served years ago but who stopped coming. Their husband might be poorly and they don't drive. People who are house-bound.
"They're the ones we still have to serve. The people who don't want a pub environment but who enjoy the food," she added.
Mrs Oatham said the bar might open again toward the end of October.
"I don't feel ready to open just yet. I'm still very wary. We will reopen, certainly to help people at Christmas and the lead-up to Christmas."
She said the pub, a small building with little ventilation, is also her home.
After the pub reopens, she will continue making the takeaway dinners, she added.
Three years ago, rising overheads and shrinking takings forced Mrs Oatham to close the premises. But a few days later, two businessmen from Lowestoft, Sam Cole and Mark Oakes, stepped in and offered to buy the venue.
The Butcher's Arms was first opened as a beer-house in 1836 after three cottages, the middle of which was a butcher's, were combined.