Loved-up Wimbledon pub managers Sarah and Mick Dore celebrate their silver wedding anniversary this year as they try to tackle the loneliness crisis faced by many.
Sarah and Mick have managed The Alexandra in Wimbledon for the past decade, living onsite with their two teenage children, border collie and cat.
Over the years, the couple have noticed seismic changes in the industry.
Sarah said: “The smoking ban and availability of good food made pubs more accessible. The gender disparity is also much more balanced now.”
Despite being the most common public spaces in Britain, pub closures have increased nationwide in recent decades.
According to the Campaign for Real Ale, 25 pubs have closed in Merton over the past 20 years.
Currently the average number of pubs in the borough is 50% lower than the national average, totalling at 50.
Mick said: “We’ve allowed too many pubs to close without stepping in.”
Yet thanks to Sarah and Mick, The Alexandra remains a bastion of community spirit.
Sarah said: “I think belatedly, we’re realising that pubs are in the fabric of community.”
Their 150 year-old pub is a hub for combating the UK’s loneliness crisis, offering free drinks to people spending Christmas Day alone and more recently, a free Christmas meal.
Lunch attendees tripled since its inception in 2017 to nearly 150 people in December 2019.
Mick sad: “Pubs are the glue of society. People in London often live in small spaces, and need somewhere communal to meet. [Pubs] are level ground.”
Sarah added: “It doesn’t matter if you live in a mansion or a tiny flat, everyone’s equal here”.
Mick launched ‘Meet Up Mondays’ in January 2018 to tackle loneliness and unite Londoners with activities and free sandwiches.
The Alexandra was named pub of the year at Merton’s Best Business Awards 2018 and 100 venues have adopted #MeetUpMondays.
After relocating from Norway, customer John Bjerja, 42, said: “The Alexandra helped me receive information about the community and make connections.”
Don Johnson, 70, a customer at The Alexandra, added: “Pubs are the cornerstone of British culture”.
In 1993, New Zealand-born Sarah met Mick Dore, both 53, at the Great Junction Arms pub in northwest London.
The Dores married in August 1995 and with the permission of their managers, hosted their wedding reception at the Harlesden pub.
Sarah said: “It was a real family effort. Everybody mucked in and gave their time or skills as a wedding gift.
Mick added: “We worked there, so the pub managers embraced that community spirit.”
The couple have since managed five pubs across central and south west London as well as Oxford and Kent.
On their 25-year tenure, Sarah said: “The British pub is an institution to be cherished and protected.
“The pub plays a big part of what we do and who we are and we’re privileged to be a part of it.”