Landlord of the Griffin Says Regulars Feeling the Pinch
Gerhard Peleschka faced with tripling of energy bills with other costs rising
December 5, 2022
The landlord of a pub opposite Brentford Football Club’s former Griffin Park stadium says customers are staying away because the cost-of-living crisis means they can’t enjoy as many nights out.
The ground was the home of the Bees for 116 years, and fans would herd into the four pubs that surrounded the iconic stadium on matchdays. The Griffin, The New Inn, The Princess Royal and The Brook became part of the Brentford experience, with fans of both teams apparently mixing in all four venues.
Now The Griffin’s landlord faces a different type of problem. From busy, crowded weekends with staff rushed off their feet, the pub now worries customers are being put off with less money to spare.
Gerhard Peleschka has been running The Griffin for nine years and has watched his energy bills triple in the last few months. He said, “People say lockdown was difficult but we have never seen anything like this before, people are scared to put the heating on.
“It is very, very tough. Business is not bad, but what is challenging is that cost of everything is going up, it is absolutely crippling. It is going up every month, from the straws to the beer, even spirits, and food.”
Before the energy crisis, Mr Peleschka said The Griffin would pay around £700 per month for gas and electricity. The pub’s energy bill has now skyrocketed to £3,000 per month and to help cut costs they light the fire in the morning to keep the pub warm for customers without having to turn on the heating.
Mr Peleschka, who was determined not to increase prices after the lockdown despite losing thousands of pounds, has had no choice but to charge customers at least 50p more for a pint. For his regulars, he’s aware that could cost around £50 more per month.
The landlord has said that he has noticed some of them are staying away to save cash. He said, “They used to come in every day, they only come in 4 or 5 times a week, or they drink less than they used to because they just can’t afford it.
“People are just being careful right now, especially the retired community because their pension does not increase. Other people can ask for a pay rise or find another job, but those on a pension can’t get a rise.”
The Griffin has also had to hike prices on the food menu, with chicken breasts rising to about £1.50 each when they used to cost less than £1. Mr Peleschka, who is a chef by trade, said, “People are coming in and seeing what they ate in the summer has gone up by £3, that’s a lot of money, but at the end of the day we are a business and we need to survive.”
In September, five staff members left the pub to go to university and the landlord made the choice not to replace them to save cash. He said, “The last thing you want to do is employ people and then a few months later tell them they have to go.
“It was the best decision we could have made, we cover the shifts ourselves and hope that we stay healthy. We are a family-run business and it is a credit to our bar and kitchen staff because they all work so hard.”
In the summer, Mr Peleschka was taken to hospital for emergency heart surgery and is thankful his staff took on more responsibility in his absence. He said, “The staff are the most important thing we can have in this business. If our staff are miserable then we are miserable.
“We are nothing, we are only as strong as our staff. I encourage my staff to talk to the customers because then we get to know them, about their lives and their families. That makes everyone feel comfortable and happy.”
Despite the closure of Griffin Park in 2020, the pub still welcomes Brentford fans. But it’s more relaxed than the days when football matches were next door. Mr Peleschka, who has lived in Brentford for more than 20 years with his wife, explained, “It was just madness, it was crazy. We needed so many staff members and we never knew what would happen. The Brentford fans are good but you could never predict, it would just take one silly person.
“Since the closure, the business has gone down, but that’s not a bad thing. We need half the staff, half the beer, and half the food. But that’s also half the waste so sometimes having less means having a little bit more.”
Although business is slower, the pub community has never felt stronger with the most committed Brentford FC fans still dropping into The Griffin for its relaxed atmosphere. Football is still at the heart of the pub, with customers voting to close the kitchen so Mr Peleschka could travel to Brighton to see his home nation play in the Women’s Euro 2022 earlier this year.
As the pub continues to receive bookings for the Christmas period and hectic World Cup season, Mr Peleschka hopes 2023 is the year without disruption. He said, “All the plans we had for refurbishment in the pub and in the garden, we had to put on hold because we do not know where we are. We can’t put thousands of pounds into something without being able to plan ahead.”
Looking forward, Mr Peleschka is hoping for some normality. He said: “We are being positive and hoping that next year will be better. We just want things to go back to normal, some normality would just be nice.”
In December, Hounslow Council said it will launch its next round of ‘Innovate and Grow’ business support. A spokesperson from the council has said has been “adapted” to support businesses in recognition of the Cost of Living crisis over the winter and spring period.
More information is set to be released about the support, but it will include grant funding as well as workshops, mentoring and tailored support. Earlier this year, 760 businesses were supported by the scheme.
Hounslow Council are also providing affordable workspaces at Digital Dock in Brentford for micro-businesses and a free business support programme delivered by CPG Executive Consulting. Any business can access the support programme not just those needing the workspace.
Megan Stanley - Local Democracy Reporter