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'I'll drink to that!' Punt & Pole starts trading on the Cam


By Mike Scialom


A new drinks service is now available on the River Cam.

Punt & Pole, which started working on the river this month, operates between Garret Hostel Bridge and Clare Bridge.

"It's middle river," says founder Rupert Hallawell. “As people overtake us on the river I give them a shout to see if they’re interested. It’s a drive-by service, it’s an impulse buy. It’s working out well - last Saturday was really good.”

It’s a hail-based service too – spot Rupert or his colleague Rafael Santos punting on the river, give him a shout and he’ll drop over something cold to drink, whether you’re in another punt or on the bank.

Rupert Hallawell, left, and assistant Rafael Santos on the river Cam. Picture: Keith Heppell
Rupert Hallawell, left, and assistant Rafael Santos on the river Cam. Picture: Keith Heppell

“The punt fits about 100 bottles of wine or prosecco and 200 beers or cans of soft drinks,” Rupert says.

The business has been a year in the planning. Rupert “worked on a superyacht for several years, came back from an Atlantic trip to see my family in Cambridge, I was on the river and got a terrible thirst and thought ‘Why has no one ever thought of an on-river drinks service?’".

There were three licenses to obtain before Punt & Pole got going.

The Punt & Pole offers a drive-by drinks service - prosecco, beer, soft drinks - to punters and anyone on the banks of the river between Garret Hostel Bridge and Clare Bridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Punt & Pole offers a drive-by drinks service - prosecco, beer, soft drinks - to punters and anyone on the banks of the river between Garret Hostel Bridge and Clare Bridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

"That was what took most of the work before launch," explains Rupert. "I had to get a personal alcohol licence for myself, then one to sell alcohol on a punt - a premises licence - and then a vendors licence from Cam Conservators.

"At the moment it's flexible in terms of future growth. We have a target to cover daily costs and we'll keep on going until it dips below that - hopefully at some point past October. We hand drinks over to other punts in a safe and responsible way. Everyone is having a good time and it makes the job a bit of a laugh. I've been concerned not to rub shoulders with with other punt companies or the colleges, it's about pushing the brand and creating an aesthetic that's stylish and in keeping with Cambridge."

Payment is by cash or contactless card - "Square, it's an app on the phone" - and the logo for the business, with the motto ‘Vinum ad Aquae’, or ‘the gift of wine to water’, designed by Brewboard’s Oliver Pugh. "He's a family friend," says Rupert. "It took three months of steering to get it right." The artwork features mermaids, ships and the Fleur de Lys.

The Punt & Pole can be found on Facebook. Maybe the stars of The Apprentice - on the river recently for a future show - could learn a bit about how it all works from Rupert?



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