Cherry beer and revamped garden help Norwich restaurant survive tough year
- Credit: Archant 2020
The owners of The Belgian Monk in Norwich celebrated its 20th anniversary this week and it has been the hardest year yet due to coronavirus, but adapting has been key to its survival.
Business partners Terry Hughes, 59, and Linda Smith, 52, opened the restaurant on Pottergate 20 years ago and it has become one of the city's most popular restaurants, known for its mussels, fries and authentic Belgian beers.
But when the nation went into lockdown they had to quickly find a way to maintain an income, so after two weeks and requests from customers they launched a delivery service of its popular Ter Dolen Kriek cherry beer.
Mr Hughes said: "Without cherry beer, I don't know where we would have been over these years.
"It went crazy and to start with we were just delivering locally, but then we kept getting enquiries from the coast and we were doing three deliveries a week and we are still delivering now."
After reopening in July, the summer was busy, helped by an August boost from the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, but the couple were devastated to have to shut again for the second lockdown.
Now they are back open again, a newly-revamped heated outdoor area, decorated with Belgian flags and beer memorabilia, has helped them increase capacity and allowed mixed household groups to meet under Tier 2 restrictions.
Mr Hughes said: "Coming up to the second lockdown, we were turning away between 120 and 150 people on Friday and Saturday nights and it got to the point where we said it was crazy and we can't keep doing this."
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But it isn't just coronavirus that the couple have had to contend with this year, with the Brexit deadline for a trade deal on December 31.
Miss Smith said: "Belgian beer has a long life and we have a warehouse with an awful lot of stock, so if we have to go two or three months of the year sorting out how to import we have enough to get us through."
Reflecting on 20 years in business, Mr Hughes said: "The following we have is incredible and over the years we have worked to offer something you can't get anywhere else."