Owners of a Sutherland hotel have been praised for their humanitarian efforts as a new study finds when pubs close communities suffer.
Researchers from Loughborough University in England have analysed the important and positive role pubs play in tackling loneliness and social isolation.
The Open Arms report has been produced by University researchers for The Campaign to End Loneliness in collaboration with Heineken’s Brewing Good Cheer campaign.
Findings from the report found that 86% of hospitality staff questioned agreed that ‘when a pub closes the local community suffers’ as 76% felt where they worked had made a positive contribution to the local community.
The Eagle Hotel in Dornoch is one in a number of premises being recognised as part of the Brewing Good Cheer campaign.
The 4-star Castle Street hotel has been praised for their ability to go above and beyond the call of duty to support the community through times of hardship.
Since the start of the pandemic, licensees Eric and Suzanne De Venny have devoted their time to ensure the area’s elderly population and key workers were fed and watered.
Joining forces with the Local Food Share initiative last March, the Eagle Hotel owners began preparing meals for delivery to vulnerable members of community.
Before long, the owners branched out, launching a takeaway service to provide hot food and free deliveries to residents shielding from the virus.
Frontline workers at Lawson Memorial Hospital in Golspie also benefitted from the scheme, receiving meals from the pub several nights a week, as well as offers of accommodation.
Mr De Venny said it was important to them to keep “the community spirit alive.”
He said: “Loneliness and isolation have affected so many across the Highlands these last 12 months exacerbated by the closure of pubs.
“Pubs like The Eagle Hotel are much more than places to have a pint and a meal, they’re hubs of their communities and a lifeline for many, providing somewhere for people to enjoy what might be their only social interaction of the day or even week.
“It’s why it has been so important for us to keep the community spirit alive and support residents during this challenging time.”
He added: “A virtual community is better than none, but we can’t wait to open the doors and welcome customers back as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
The latest report recognises the essential role that pubs like The Eagle Hotel play in positively connecting individuals, groups and communities highlighting that even a conversation with a member of pub staff lasting seconds or minutes can help alleviate feelings of loneliness.
Around 64% of those who took part in the study felt pubs were one of the main places that people living in the local area could socialise.
Dr Thomas Thurnell-Read, a senior lecturer at Loughborough University and writer of the report said: “Pubs can be really important settings for social activities beyond the home and the workplace, a place where people can feel a connection with others.
“The report reveals that for many, going to the local pub is an opportunity to get out of the house and have a conversation.
“This social contact, and the sense of connection and community it provides, has been under threat during the Covid-19 pandemic, and protecting the social role of pubs is now more important than ever.”