The “world’s smallest pub” is ready to reopen — and it’s in Lincolnshire!
How do you keep socially distant in a bar that is less than six square metres is the question the The Signal Box Inn have been tussling with.
Measuring just 8ft x 8ft square – the tiny pub bills itself as the ‘Smallest Pub on the Planet’.
Opened in August 2006 – the Signal Box Inn takes its name from its location next to the Cleethorpes coast light railway and normally fits just six drinkers.
Current social distancing rules mean no customers would be allowed to sit inside the CAMRA recognised pub — but going down to one metre means there may be room for one lucky drinker!
However thirsty punters don’t need to worry, with a large refurbished beer garden overlooking the adjoining railway and the Government now targeting a reopening date of July 4; they should be back soon.
The Signal Box Inn is named for its location at Lakeside Station of the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway.
The size of the building is approximate to the same scale as the narrow gauge trains that use the track and boasts five hand pumps serving real ale.
Before social distancing measures came in there was just enough space for six people inside, according to landlord and former teacher Alan Cowood, 66.
Alan said: “I’ve done all the risk assessments myself and at two metres we couldn’t have any customers inside, it is just too small wherever I stand behind the bar.
“It meant customers standing outside the door and collecting their drinks from a table.
“Reducing the distance to one metre makes a big difference to the pub and all our staff.”
Alan says his regulars are very protective over the status as the smallest public house on the planet and can’t wait to be back.
“A lot of my customers travel round the country to different pubs and they’ve all said we’re the smallest by far,” a proud Alan explained.
The eight feet by eight feet building was originally a signal box in Scunthorpe but moved to its current location in 2002 and opened as a pub four years later in 2006.
Owned by the railway, it attracted visitors from around the world before lockdown, and a German TV station hoping to cover the grand reopening.
Alan added: “We should have been open two weeks before Easter, and to be honest I’m raring to go. We just needed the green flag from Boris!
“We won’t be able to get six customers inside, but fortunately we have got a large beer garden, so it won’t be a problem for us.
“Hopefully we will be able to serve plenty of people, and the atmosphere should be great.”
The pub is hoping to open on July 4 and will resume train rides on the same day.
Alan said: “Technically we could have been serving takeaway beer but it isn’t the same experience. We wanted people to enjoy the pub and railway together, and open at the same time.”
Pete Bryant, 28, a director of the pub and railway, admitted the two metre rule had made opening difficult.
“We fully understand that at a time like this there are more important things going on in the world than getting the pub open,” Pete said.
“There are people who can’t see their grandparents, and that is why we didn’t want to open too soon, but we are ready to go now.
“The two metre rule caused us problems, not just in the pub, but for our volunteers in the cafe and in the train workshop.
“We have done all the planning at two metres, but we didn’t want to order all the branding just in case it changed.
“Going down from two metres also means we can get more people on the trains.”
The pub have rescheduled their famous cider festival for August after having to postpone it due to the lockdown.
“Fortunately we have made our station beer garden even bigger,” Pete added.
“Where hopeful of fitting 100 or even 120 customers in with the tables spaced a part.
“Once they start drinking we will have to monitor the situation.”
Despite its small size the award winning freehouse normally boasts a choice of cask ales, lager, bitter, spirits, wines and 30 different ciders available at any one time.
The famous bar’s pool table and darts games will be inaccessible due to the restrictions.
And plans are in place to reduce the deficit of having had no income for half a season.
A crowdfunding campaign called Keep Us On Track has been trying to keep the business afloat
Half of the donations to Keep Us On Track will go towards the railway and the other half to the pub.
A target of £10,000 has been set and already the team are over a third of the way there.
It is hoped the Signal Box Inn will be back with a bang – with over 100 ales and ciders on offer to customers at the Cleethorpes Folk and Cider Festival, which has been rescheduled for Saturday to Monday, August 29 to 31.