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Pub desks: could you swap your home office for the boozer?

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Getting sick of staring at the same four walls? After seven months of working from home the cabin fever is starting to set in for many people.

Plus, being surrounded by fighting kids, piles of clean laundry looking for a home and a dog who barks at anyone who dares to walk past their window, can make anyone wistful about the days when they could leave it all behind for eight hours.

Now savvy pub and hotel owners who are facing a huge crisis in the hospitality industry have hit on a new trend to revive their coffers and our flagging attention spans – pub desks.

Gareth Christopher (correct) working at one of the tables in BrewDog Cambridge, 15 Bene't St, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (42866691)
Gareth Christopher (correct) working at one of the tables in BrewDog Cambridge, 15 Bene't St, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (42866691)

Why camp out with your laptop in the spare bedroom when you could be in a cosy pub with snacks and drinks on hand and probably significantly better wifi than you have at home?

Emma Hilton, landlady at the Red Lion in Swaffham Prior, said: “We have done it to give people a change of scenery when they are working from home. We have a warm, heated pub here with nobody in it, we might as well open the doors and let people come in and let people have coffee. We’re not busy in the daytime and we thought this would also be a way to boost trade.

“One of our locals suggested the idea and I thought ‘why not?’ I think it is needed but we need to get the word out so that people come along.

The Red Lion Pub in Swaffham Prior his offering all day pub desks with wifi, tea and coffee and a sandwich for just £10.
The Red Lion Pub in Swaffham Prior his offering all day pub desks with wifi, tea and coffee and a sandwich for just £10.

“I think people are getting bored and lonely at home, and in the pub you get some interesting characters come in with funny stories and it’s nice for people to get out of the house. We are quite close to Cambridge so we are expecting to get people coming from all over, not just from the village.”

The pub is asking people to book ahead for a table so they can get an idea of the numbers. And there is an all-day, one-price deal for pub desk users.

“For £10 they get wifi, they can be here as long as they want, they get power, unlimited tea and coffee and a bap at lunchtime and some crisps,” says Emma. “I’m also trying to get hold of a wireless printer so eventually people will be able to print out work. We have six tables, not loads but we don’t do lunch or have people in the day usually, so the pub is normally quiet until 4 or 5pm.

University Arms Hotel (42839449)
University Arms Hotel (42839449)

“We open at 9.30am and it finishes at 5pm but people are welcome to stay for a drink. We are launching the service this week and I hope it’s going to be really popular.”

Find the Red Lion, Swaffham Prior on Facebook, or call 01638 745483.

The Bridge pub in Waterbeach, which is part of the Chef and Brewer chain, is also offering a “pub desk” deal. For £10, you can spend three hours in the riverside pub, and enjoy a sandwich and unlimited tea and Americano coffee for three hours between 11am and 4pm weekdays. Guests can book via the pub’s Facebook or Instagram page.

Twenty years ago it was completely normal for journalists to conduct most of their business from a pub. Now expenses are virtually non-existent and drinking in the daytime is generally frowned upon, so that doesn’t happen so much. But this new trend could even see old hacks reliving their cub reporter days, this time quite legitimately. However, a member of bar staff at BrewDog, in Bene’t Street, Cambridge, said its pub desk scheme was mostly popular with students.

She added: “We do get people coming in here to work and we have a monthly pass you can buy, but you still need to book the table – especially at busy times.”

Cheaper than hiring an office, the monthly Desk Dog pass for a table at the pub chain is £70. It allows pub deskers to sit at a table using the wifi from 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

Pass holders receive free wifi, unlimited coffee and a pint of Punk IPA at the end of the day. One day’s pass is £7. Pre-booking is preferred.

University Arms Hotel (42839522)
University Arms Hotel (42839522)

If what you’re really craving after months at home is actually some peace and quiet, rather than the atmosphere of a busy pub, the new daytime offer from the University Arms Hotel may be just the ticket.

It is launching its new Work From Hotel initiative this week. The hotel is offering daily room hire between 8am and 6pm in its superior rooms, designed by Martin Brudnizki, which boast a comfortable work station, Nespresso machine and tea making facilities with daily fresh milk delivery and even a sumptuous bed for power naps to maximise brain function.

Additionally, guests will have complimentary access to the hotel’s gym, a special parking rate of £15 per day and, of course, the delicious Parker’s Tavern food at their beck and call. Parker’s Tavern’s homemade bento boxes can be delivered to the room for a working lunch.

For those who prefer to dine at the restaurant, Parker’s Tavern is just downstairs; a perfect spot in the centre of Cambridge for lunch meetings and after-work drinks.

Tristan Welch, co-owner of Parker’s Tavern, said: “Being able to work in total peace once a week would be perfect for some families. My wife works at home and it was all very well for the first few months, but now it is proving a challenge and time in a hotel room would be ideal for a bit of headspace at work.

“You can work close to a bar and restaurant without screaming children nearby and when gin o’clock comes around, the creative juices will be running freely.

“Obviously at this moment we have a few empty rooms around during the day and in tough times like this it’s all about utilising what we have got and just being flexible and creative with the space we have. And of course the more opportunities we can create, the more team members we can keep employed. We have to remain versatile and move with the trends.”

An office room at the University Arms in Cambridge is £129 per day, from 8am until 6pm. To enquire or book, email reservations@universityarms.com.


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