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Debbie Connor, landlady of The Camel, Bethnal Green
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a pub landlady

By Megan Carnegie

…according to Debbie Connor, 49.

The pub isn’t just a place to drink

‘People come into The Camel to borrow ladders when they’re locked out or leave their keys with me if they have friends staying. It’s satisfying to see people treat it as an extension of their homes. Although once a man came to dry his soggy socks on our radiator – that was too much. ’

A pint once cost less than a pound

‘I’ve lived in a pub since I was three and I remember seeing people get change from a pound for a pint. Northerners often come in and grumble about the London prices now, but our beers are 15 percent cheaper than our three nearest rivals!’

Old-school east Londoners are the biggest drinkers

‘I grew up in Bethnal Green and me and my friends from the area probably have several drinks an hour when we’re together. It’s very much a social thing, though any pub landlord will tell you it’s a struggle not to drink every day.’

Dry January hits pubs hard

‘Although I sell a lot more alcohol-free beer in January, people tend to stay away. It gets worse each year: I was 15 or 20 percent down on my takings this January. The government pushes for people to stop drinking a few times a year, but they don’t take into account the small businesses that rely on drinkers to make a living.’

Running a pub is more about people-pleasing than pint-pulling

‘My number one responsibility is to make sure my staff, my customers and me are in a relaxed environment, and I often work 65 hours a week to make that happen. I was a stockbroker in the City for 12 years so I could earn enough to buy the pub from my dad, and I work similar hours now for a lot less money. But I’m much happier doing this.’ 

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