The first thing that comes to mind when looking back over the year just gone is, honestly, the nauseating predictability of feeling obligated to reflect and reminisce at this fairly arbitrary point in the passage of time. This is how I always feel. However, 2022 does feel like a year that is worthy of review. It has been strange, turbulent and varied. We’ve had ups and downs and have learnt a lot of lessons. That said, it has ultimately been successful and I feel conflicted but tentatively optimistic about 2023.
It doesn’t feel like a year that’s flown by, if I’m honest. January 2022 feels a long time ago. The Omicron Christmas had decimated trade right across the sector and there were some very concerned, unhappy campers, particularly in the pub trade. I myself was truthfully burnt out and utterly exhausted. The relentless madness of the previous 2 years had finally got the better of me, and at the time, the light at the end of the tunnel still felt very dim. We’d forgotten why it was that we were doing what we do. Survival had been the name of the game for the previous two years and I was just sick of it. We desperately needed some normality and some predictability. We needed some reasons to be cheerful, frankly.
Did we get it? Kind of… Covid is no longer a significant problem for us, and for that I am hugely thankful. I dread to think how things might be if it had ruined another winter. As for normal? We’re still getting to grips with what that means, but things have undoubtedly settled down to a more comfortable level. Some things have changed… forever. These changes present us with challenges and opportunities as is typical.
I think the most satisfying thing has been seeing our bars return to the warm, atmospheric, happy vibrant places that they were pre pandemic. They’ve just been great places to be, particularly these last few months. It has been wonderful to watch the unique communities that they foster begin to flourish and develop again. The Royal Oak has finally settled down and has begun its journey of establishing its own community, which has been wonderful to see as well. Our team have been amazing frankly. Fell Bars are truly back to their best.
The wider industry has had a tougher time, no doubt. Talk of crisis in hospitality is not overstated and recent brewery closures have been tragic and concerning. I’m afraid to say I expect many more in the next few months. Are we bucking the trend? We’re certainly not immune to these huge issues and I’m not predicting sunlit uplands any time soon. That said, we do feel safer with our bars and the protection that comes with being up here in the Lakes. We will make it through to the other side and we’re cautiously planning for the challenges ahead. With that in mind, I have to draw attention to the many successes of 2022. I am immensely proud of the progress we have made towards becoming greener and more sustainable. There is loads more to come in 2023, but we’ve made a brilliant start this year. Our Farm to Glass beers are another highlight. Turning our attention to our local surroundings and economy for inspiration and collaboration has been rewarding and I hope that is here to stay. Getting invited to Indy Man was an honour, and smashing our first Oktoberfest at the pub felt really great.
Lastly, our rebrand and turning 10 in March has meant hours of soul searching, questioning, reflecting and ultimately really demanding we get to grips with why it is that we do what we do. This has been really eye-opening and enlightening, and it feels like we have found some good answers. Given our position at the start of the year, both mine personally and the team’s collectively, I can’t help but feel positive about the future. Our will to survive has been replaced by our desire to thrive. Despite the enormous challenges ahead, we are filled with energy, passion and ideas. We just need to stick at it and keep our chins up.
All that leaves is for me to wish you a happy new year and to thank you again for your cherished, continued support. We are ultimately just a team of young people trying to make a living out of this madness that we’ve created. I really hope the new year finds you happy, healthy and well. To 2023 and things getting better.
Founder and Director