York’s smallest pub to reopen for the first time since March

Landlord John Pybus outside his pub the Blue Bell
12 Aug 2020 @ 6.04 pm
| Food & drink

One of York’s best-loved pubs is about to reopen for the first time since lockdown began.

The Blue Bell on Fossgate has been shut to the public since March.

Being York’s smallest pub, it was hit hard by the social distancing rules.

But it will be back serving drinks and bonhomie on Saturday (15 August) between noon and 6pm.

Drinkers will have to stay outside – and the pub has a table and 12 chairs ready for use.

John has cleared furniture from the front room, and will let two people inside at a time to buy drinks from the bar.

If the outdoor trial is a success, John may repeat it on future days.

Charged full rent

A top spot: the Blue Bell. Photograph: Richard McDougall

John told YorkMix: “We’re really happy and excited to be opening again.

“We have missed everyone and can’t wait to welcome people back.”

Opening the interior of the pub is still some way off – it could only accommodate a maximum of ten people at the moment and that isn’t financially feasible.

John has been a hugely popular landlord at the Blue Bell since he became only its fourth licensee in more than 100 years.

But he was nearly forced out by pub owners Punch Taverns in 2018 – until a people-powered campaign overturned its plan to evict him.

During the coronavirus crisis Punch Taverns charged him full rent between March and 4 July, even though he couldn’t trade – a total of nearly £11,000 John said.

And they only reduced it then because he ‘kicked off’.

Along with his other fixed running costs, that has left John with ‘a mountain of debt’.

John shows off his face mask

But, he says, he will be staying at the helm of the the Grade II* listed pub – with at least four years left on his lease.

“You can’t keep a good pub down,” he said. “I am an optimist, and the Blue Bell is a fighter.