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Drakes owners say flood damage means they will not be open until June at the earliest and that the repair bill will cost thousands

12 March 2014
by Chris Price

The rains have subsided but the effects on businesses of the floods in Kent will last for many years to come, at huge cost.

Grubby, smelly and ruined – Drakes pub was devastated by the floods.

Pictures of the drinking hole just off Medway Street in Maidstone were beamed across the country as the rains caused the Medway to burst its banks over Christmas.

Area manager Will Cheeseman in Drakes which was badly flooded over Christmas

Area manager Will Cheeseman in Drakes which was badly flooded over Christmas

Since then, many parts of the county have remained on flood alert for long periods, prompting Prime Minister David Cameron and Treasury Minister Danny Alexander to carry out separate visits to badly-hit Yalding.

Back in Maidstone town centre the waters have long since receded but it will not be until June or July that Drakes can reopen its doors after being submerged in three feet of water, which flooded its basement.

On Christmas Eve, pub manager Gareth White – who is now out of a job – was advised to stay upstairs as the floods came.

He ended up stuck for three days waiting for the water to subside.

Flooding in the centre of Maidstone on Christmas Day

Flooding in the centre of Maidstone on Christmas Day

Area manager Will Cheeseman said: “We were advised to stack up the furniture, get stuff off the floor and turn the power off. Then it just kept coming.

“The amount which needs doing is astronomical. The floorboards need to come out and the bar needs to be replaced. The wood panelling needs to be ripped out and replaced, as does all the electrics.

“We are talking tens of thousands of pounds of damage.”

The venue is part of the eight-pub Pleisure Limited chain, which has four bars in Brighton, one in Eastbourne, another in Worthing and one in London.

Mr Cheeseman, 33, added: “We are not taking any money. We are only a small pub company and we have lost an eighth of our business.

Area manager Will Cheeseman in Drakes which was badly flooded over Christmas

Area manager Will Cheeseman in Drakes which was badly flooded over Christmas

“Nothing is happening very quickly. We have been told by our landlord nothing will happen until the beginning of May.

“It’s quite frustrating. We put a lot of effort into getting the place how we wanted it.

“I moved a lot of things around and made it look smarter. Now it’s all been washed away.

“It’s demoralising but there is not much we can do about it.

“The amount which needs doing is astronomical. We are talking tens of thousands of pounds of damage...” - Drakes area manager Will Cheeseman

“I can’t speed the process up. I’ve just got to wait for the various parties to do their bit.”

Since the floods, Drakes have had to let their pub manager go and five part-time bar staff have been left without a job.

Also hit hard is Jacqueline Simmonds, who runs catering company The Tropical Hotpot.

She ran a concession in the pub and has lost thousands in revenue as she no longer has a base.

She is also majorly out of pocket after losing much stock and equipment, which she had not insured for flood damage.

Although she is still offering an outside catering service for functions, she says work is slow.

“I’m not doing anything,” said Miss Simmonds, 50, who lives in Maidstone. “I’ve only received one call from Drakes, saying the pub will be shut for the foreseeable future. I have a business but no way to set up. It’s had a very bad effect on me.”

Prime Minister David Cameron visits Yalding in the wake of the floods

Prime Minister David Cameron visits Yalding in the wake of the floods

Miss Simmonds’ story is not uncommon. Figures from the Association of British Insurers suggest up to 80% of small firms hit by floods will go out of business within 18 months.

She launched her firm three years ago at the Lockmeadow market and after moving to Sandling Road at the end of 2011 she was approached by Drakes to set up a concession in the pub, which she launched in June.

She added: “I’ve only been there six months and after advertising in the local paper and on the radio, after all that expense, this is what’s happened.”

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