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October 2012

At HandyforWork our aim is to list and promote all those useful locations around the World that help you work smarter on the move. All kinds of premises have the potential to offer opportunities for remote working which the internet and mobile technology can now enable. At a time when many traditional pubs and bars are struggling to find a new direction or face closure, we have considered a variety of workspace diversification options that could be applied in both urban and rural areas.

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Issues The Issues
The parlous state of the pub sector is well recognised. We are still losing about 12 pubs per week in the UK. Although this report concentrates primarily on Britain, the situation overseas is not dissimilar. According to research by R3, the insolvency trade body, more than one third (34%) of the UK's pubs and bars are defined as 'at risk of failure' in the next 12 months, compared to a national cross-sector average of 23%. In London, the proportion of pubs and bars 'at risk' is even higher, at 37% and the only other region worse affected than London is the South East, where 39% of pubs and bars are 'at risk'. In the UK the Government has sought to control loss of these ‘community assets’ through the Town Planning process, making change of use harder to achieve and giving ‘locals’ more power to determine the fate of pub premises. However, this is simply resulting in an increasing number of boarded-up properties awaiting the day that common sense or the wrecking ball establishes a new way forward. Historically the Public House, Inn, ‘local’ - call it what you will - has always been a meeting place: somewhere to join together with others for business or pleasure, a place to rest, somewhere to obtain food and refreshment and to do business. Increasingly though the role has tended toward a simpler, more focused, leisure-related function with distinct product diversification and a more focussed business model. However, the pub’s significance even in this role has diminished as tastes and social aspirations have changed. OK Less of the gloom. What to do with a pub in decline?

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Hub’ ‘Pub is the Hub’
One option has been to look to local community alternatives. Pub is the Hub was initiated by HRH the Prince of Wales in 2001 and is a 'not for profit' advisory organisation for community owned pubs, primarily in rural areas. Pub is the Hub encourages local authorities, local communities, licensees, pub owners and breweries to work together to support, retain and locate services within rural pubs. They assist with guidance on availability of project funding, and provide advice on the best way to progress individual projects, such as conversion to shops, post offices and a range of other uses, as well as retaining the community pub function. This may be fine for a rural community group, but what of the urban pub or the hard pressed owner / licensee watching the takings fall, whilst the rent, rates and tax on alcohol continue to rise. There may just be a chink of light on the horizon emerging out of the economic gloom that could assist pubs in diversifying their offer whilst retaining their primary role.

Druid Inn, Llanferres, Denbighshire Community WiFi

Layer Fox, Essex Community Hub

Cherry Tree, Lincolnshire Community Pub

Greyhound Inn, Cumbria Community Operated

Photos with thanks to

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Changing Demographics & Technology
The most recent Government Business statistics show that small and medium sized enterprises (0-249 employees) account for 99.9% of all UK enterprises and almost all of these (99.2%) were in the small sector (049 employees), 2/3rds (62.4%) are sole proprietorships. In other words, we remain a nation of small businesses increasingly comprising individuals working out of their front bedroom or garden shed enabled by technology and willing to operate almost anywhere if they can get an internet connection. It is technology that presents a possible option for future pub diversification. In the United States, over 10% of the workforce is now working from home at least one day a week. This trend is set to continue and grow, bolstered by growth in both full and part-time single-person businesses. According to the research company IDC, there will be around 1.3 billion mobile workers by 2015. They will make up 37 percent of the global workforce. Although varying by country, it is said that mobile workers will account for close to 70 percent of the domestic Japanese workforce in the future. Many of these mobile workers are "nomad employees" who don't have their own office desk. As a result organizations in the USA expect to reduce workplace accommodation by seven percent within just two years, and a whopping 16 percent by 2020 (that’s just 7 over years away now folks). Hot-desking and remote working is increasingly become the norm. In the UK the recent encouragement to ‘out of office’ working during the London Olympics gave impetus to businesses which recognised the tangible benefits of such practice. With the prospect of ever increasing commuting costs without any balancing rise in salaries, the option to work from home (if only for part of the week) was not lost on employees either. But the kitchen table is not always the best place to work and there is the need for other services, or simply a desire to make contact with fellow workers. The term ‘working from home’ is rather more a euphemism for working away from the office and takes place in a wide variety of locations. This is where the pub might just be able to offer some new options for business.

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The Pub as a Micro Business Centre
A ‘pub’ provides a useful focal point for providing services and facilities and for offering space for meetings. So why not think of the pub as an alternative business centre, which is accessible throughout the day, with food and drink available.

The Options
There are several levels of potential use that could be used as a ladder for growth over time. The Hotspot The Café culture is already an early adopter of WiFi to attract customers and chains around the World are rolling out free services for just this reason. Many pubs provide WiFi, but to attract business users this is now vital. You could provide WiFi for free, on the basis that some additionality in the purchase of drinks or food would offset the set-up costs over time. Alternatively some bars and pubs tend to require a small purchase in return for the login code. Either way, a good quality WiFi connection would be a valuable addition to any location – combined with a decent coffee machine. In rural areas - where good internet services can be limited - the pub might provide a focal point for high end broadband accessibility and become an internet hub for the local area. As laptops, iPads and smartphones all need power, the opportunity to plug-in whilst working is also essential. You will become every travellers’ best friend if you offer both power points AND WiFi.

With thanks to blogger BARM

“Drinkers at nearly 100 London pubs and bars are to get fast WiFi, following a new BT and Heineken partnership with plans to extend the wireless internet service to a further 200 pubs across the UK by the end of 2012”.
BT Press Release

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The Hotdesk A step up from providing WiFi for people in the bar is to create dedicated space for a hotdesk; somewhere to sit down at a desk, connect to the internet and work. This might be facilitated in another, quieter part of the pub, where the hubbub of the bar can be distanced. Many pubs have under-used or even unused space that could be brought back into productive use.

With thanks to Lyndon Mallet

The Internet Café format is a good alternative too with dedicated high speed PC’s available that are linked to a fast broadband service. A decent laser printer and scanner would also fit in well here. Naturally there would be a charge for using the facilities on a pay-and-use basis, although regular bookings could be developed. For quieter periods you might consider making the facilities available for ‘silver surfer sessions’ or even online gaming. This might be just the thing for the younger pub audience and could be developed into the latter-day equivalent of an inter-pub darts competition.

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The Co-work Pub Co-working is becoming extremely popular and is growing fast around the world. The ‘working at home’ model does not suit everyone and there are plenty of people who are content to take out membership of co-working space in the same way they might do for a sports gym. Rather than sitting at home alone in front of the computer, people can come to the pub to drink coffee, eat breakfast and meet people from other industries. The cooperative format encourages the sharing of knowledge and developing business leads that might result in new ideas or innovations. If nothing else you can work within a quasi-office environment but close to home. Initially the province of the IT sector, co-working is becoming popular across the employment sphere. Some are designed specifically to satisfy the needs of particular business sectors such as artists, designers, or part-time working mums with crèche facilities, whilst increasing numbers are open to all-comers. From the pub point of view you are effectively setting up a business club that people pay to join which allows them access to a range of IT and other facilities. Individuals may buy PC and desk time on a regular basis. The Business Centre The next step would be to create a full blown business centre offering dedicated workspace and a diverse range of facilities, perhaps including mail-drop and virtual office services. This might be a step too far for most locations but the scope of the offer will depend upon the availability of space and local market demand, which will doubtless evolve as one progresses up the ladder of business provision. Meeting & Conference Venue Many pubs have function rooms which could be easily facilitated for business meeting as well. Room size is not necessarily a problem as most business meetings are relatively small. It just needs to be provided with table and chairs, perhaps a screen and PC projector and the availability of refreshments.

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These initiatives can be at a scale and diversity to suit your premises, but can fit well with the mainstream pub or bar business and if you have the space, are scaleable as interest grows.

Of course you need to make people aware of the offer. The range of marketing options is extensive and doubtless you already have some sort of presence on the web. You don’t necessarily need to go to the trouble of a full website, but a Facebook and/or LinkedIn business page would be worthwhile and (of course) free listings on sites such as At the very least you need to make sure that passers-by are aware of your offer. The WiFi logo in the window is a start, but you really need to make sure people recognise the scope of your offer. One way to attract local business interest would be to hold a Jelly. A Jelly is a casual work event, where everyone is invited: freelancers, home workers and people running small businesses meet up in order to get out of their normal space, interact with new people and work together in a social environment. The ethos of Jelly is to be accessible to all so the venue, WiFi and parking are provided FREE of charge, with small charges made for food and drink. A Jelly is a mixture of work, chat, comparing of ideas and passing on tips and help. It’s not a networking event where people are trying to sell their expertise or product. The venue provides the accommodation, WiFi, some tables to sit around, plenty of power points and preferably someone to coordinate and encourage. The Jelly could also be encouraged alongside a business learning event with a guest speaker and tend to be organized on a periodic basis, say monthly or bi-monthly. This could be a useful way to regularly bring business people together using the pub as a base. Check out for more guidance.
Why Jelly? The first meeting among freelance businessmen in the US was named a Jelly as they were eating jelly beans at the time.

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This is no more than an outline, but provides some substance to an evolving market opportunity that could find a place in pubs and bars to help generate and diversify income. Some capital outlay is inevitable but this can be a means to an end and could provide a new income stream from a market group that is going to increase rapidly in years to come. Because this use would be ancillary to the pub or bar you wouldn’t normally require any planning consent, although Landlords consent may be required - depending upon your lease – and licencing may also need to be considered. Whether you are located in the middle of a city or deepest countryside there is an increasing requirement for workspace to meet the needs of a rapidly growing mobile workforce. Pubs are well located to satisfy this need and it is just possible that this trend could provide a new future for many, helping them recover their role as a focal point for their community. For more information or if you have any questions please email:
If you already provide a WiFi service then do please list on HandyforWork. It’s free and will help to establish a presence. You could even use your listing as your web site.

This Report is Sponsored by:

For Town Planning Advice and Consultancy Services throughout Britain

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