Inside the Somerset pub that's been converted into a village shop

The Bell has converted its entire bar into a village shop Credit: ITV News West Country

A pub landlord who converted his business into a village shop says pubs have to diversify if they're going to survive the pandemic.

Tyler Doak runs The Bell at Broadway, near Ilminster in Somerset. As well as selling takeaway meals, the entire bar has been changed into a local store selling food and supplies.

He says he hopes other pubs will do whatever they can to survive, and told ITV West Country: "I think, without doubt, pubs have to diversify. You've got to give people more of a reason to come in and spend money.

"Coming in for a pint, especially with the restrictions, was very difficult so I think moving forward, post pandemic as well, diversification for pubs in rural areas especially is absolutely key. "

Without an existing shop in the village, the venture has proved to be popular Credit: ITV News West Country

While the shop isn't making the pub a profit, it's getting people through the door and helping to continue to build the reputation of the village.

Tyler said: "Our number one goal here is to remain a thriving pub for people to come and meet. The pub's been here since 1640 and we want to continue that.

"It would be very easy to roll over and close but I think it would be an absolute travesty. This is quite a small village and everybody knows the pub is where you go to meet people."

Villagers have said the shop helps them to avoid traveling to pick up food Credit: ITV News West Country

The Bell isn't the only pub diversifying in Somerset. The Royal Oak in Stoke St Gregory was bought by a group of village residents in 2020 and is now also home to the local shop.

Despite the challenges pubs are currently facing, the group is confident that it will be a success.

Graham Gleed is the chair of the project, known as Heart of the Village. He said: "There’s quite a bit of upward community pressure. Ever since we opened the shop people have tended to say ‘the shop is great’ and the next comment is ‘when are you going to open the pub?’."

"Future plans include offering much more than a good pint, as the refurbished pub will also include a community café.

"The community has a very optimistic outlook in establishing a newly refurbished pub and hub for the village."

The Royal Oak is currently being refurbished before being reopened to the community, when restrictions allow Credit: ITV News West Country

The pub is currently undergoing refurbishment works and will open to the community once restrictions are lifted.

However, researchers have suggested that bars and restaurants should stay shut until May.

Meanwhile, a Somerset pub landlord says he fully expects half of pubs to close for good because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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