SAVEOURPUBS - The Railway Arms in Coleraine
07 September 2020
The Railway Arms in Coleraine has sat at the heart of the town and provided a meeting place for the local community for decades.
The local institution, yards away from Coleraine Train Station and also known as ‘Johnston’s Bar’ has been in business in its current guise for 46 years.
Current owner Clare Johnston, now in her 19th year in charge, speaks warmly of the pub’s offer in the town.
“We are a traditional family run pub known for our live sport calendar, charity quizzes and live music. Our customers are an eclectic mix of young and old, and all are welcome.”
“We are a meeting house. Everyone knows everyone’s name.”
Like many other traditional non-food pubs, the shutters of The Railway Arms have been locked since mid-march, leaving the owners and the community with very little hope for the future.
“Customer support since we closed has been overwhelming”, says Clare.
“We prepared extensively for the 10th August. We thought that was our date. We installed screens and sanitising stations, we trained staff. All of that has come at a cost.”
“We also still have bills to pay and overheads to cover, even though we’re closed.”
“We’re still sitting with no sign of a reopening date. We cannot go on like this.”
When asked what the future holds, the outlook for The Railway Arms and the many traditional pubs like it is bleak.
“The fear now is that if we still aren’t open once furlough ends in October, we'll have to think about redundancies.
“That's a terrible road to go down. None of us want to have to do that, but that is where the future lies.”
“It’s very frightening.”
“Give us a chance to open safely and operate responsibly. Don't let local pubs disappear.”
As Junior NI Executive Ministers are set to meet Hospitality Ulster this week to sort out what regulations are needed to allow our traditional non-food pubs to reopen, CEO Colin Neill said:
“We will be making the case in no uncertain terms that this engagement must urgently address the reopening of our pubs and not add further delay - as every day our pubs are closed is a day too long!”
“We’ve played our part for such a long time now that there needs to be a level of trust developed that the sector will do everything it needs to do to ensure the protection of public health against the spread of coronavirus.”