Christmas lights in the window of The Railway Hotel, Llandaff North.

A Llandaff North pub switches to candles and Christmas lights to save money

The Railway Hotel’s customers find the change ‘cosy’, according to the pub owner

A LLANDAFF North pub is using indoor Christmas lights and candles to avoid hefty electricity bills during the cost-of-living crisis… but customers like the change.

The Railway Hotel has switched from overhead lights to Christmas lights and candles since the beginning of December.

Samantha Birks runs The Railway Hotel on Station Road with Ian Liddle and made the switch due to the increase in the cost of electricity.

Samantha and Ian behind the bar at The Railway Hotel. Image credit: Lucy Evans

The 39-year-old has only kept essential lights on after being “railroaded” into signing a new electricity contract with a higher cost per kWh of electricity which started in September.

Talking about the new contract, Samantha said: “Now, from our point of view, we literally can’t do anything about it other than switch off the lights.

“So as of that point we just kept all the lights off apart from what was absolutely necessary. So, the emergency lights in the corridor, the toilets, front of the bar.

“We even brought in candles. We never used to have candles on the tables. So, on every table now we’ve got candles so that’s light and warmth. And if anything, it’s quite cosy. People do like it so it’s quite a positive change for a negative reason.”

Samantha has also been turning off the outside lights, which she worries will affect the business.

She commented: “We even kept off the outside lights because there’s loads of lights round the building because we were worried about the impact of cost. Obviously, that’s detrimental to the business because people can’t see that we’re open and it looks so dark.”

However, the idea to make the switch to Christmas lights came at the start of December when Samantha realised the potential savings.

“As soon as December 1 came, we put the Christmas lights up and I checked the plugs on the Christmas lights and they are 12W. So all those lights, as far as I’m aware, that is a 12W output and bulbs are, what, 60W usually. I’m sure they differ here and there,” she said.

“So, it made more sense to have Christmas trees on in either room and then the lights in the windows to let people know that we’re open.”

The Railway Hotel has started to use candles on tables. Image credit: Lucy Evans

Customers are liking the switch to candles and indoor Christmas lights, according to Samantha.

“People have only had positive feedback. People are saying it’s really nice and cosy,” she said.

New electricity contract

Samantha called her elecricity supplier in August to negotiate a new contract for September, when the previous contract expired.

The 39-year-old was paying a day rate of 16.5 p/kWh and a night rate of 11.6 p/kWh in her previous contract.

Samantha said: “When I rang them up to negotiate a new contract I was basically told that the best they could do was 51p per kilowatt day and night so that was absolutely ridiculous.

“I rang round loads of other companies to try and get a better deal and literally no-one was taking on new customers so the lady I spoke to on the phone said, ‘you have to sign the contract now otherwise come Monday, in two days’ time, I might not be able to offer you a better rate. It might be like 70p per kilowatt’.

“So I was railroaded into signing that contract.”

The pub has switched overhead lights for indoor Christmas lights. Image credit: Lucy Evans

However, the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme for business and non-domestic customers has provided a little respite for the pub.

According to Samantha, her electricity rate is supposed to be 51p/kWh but it went down to 21p/kWh with the Energy Bill Relief Scheme.

“So it’s still more that what we were paying, but it’s not as bad,” Samantha said.

The discounts are applied to energy usage initially between October 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023, according to the government, but Samantha’s electricity contract lasts for longer than this.

“We’re stuck in that contract now until 2024 because I literally had no choice on that day to sign that contract,” she said.

Food and drink prices go up

It is not just the price of electricity bills that is increasing for The Railway Hotel.

Samantha said: “The price of everything’s gone up. So, staff wages go up again in April, the cost of all our supplies has gone up. There is literally nothing that has stayed the same price. Everything’s gone up.

“So beer prices go up twice a year anyway but we’ve had to push them up to the maximum that we can push them up to, and the same with the food as well. The food’s gone up slightly.”

Even though Samantha has had to increase the prices of beer and food, customers do not seem to mind.

“No-one’s actually commented so customers are still happy to pay that kind of price but obviously if people aren’t coming out as much because they haven’t got as much money then that’s impacting it as well,” she said.

However, Samantha is noticing that regulars are not coming into the pub as often with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

“We’ve noticed that people are still coming in but they are coming in less,” she said.

“So people you would see maybe three, four times a week just for a drink or for food, you’re maybe seeing them once a week, maybe twice a week. So that’s quite different.”