This ex-landlady who set up a virtual pub to keep people entertained during the novel coronavirus lockdowns has been forced to employ bar staffers as a means of coping with her 14,500 online customers.
Since 40-year-old Jo Bowtell launched The Virtual Pub Facebook page just over a week ago, she has been regularly hosting live music, quizzes, DJ sets, open mic, and comedy nights.
She started the page in order to bring her local English community together after running The Noel Arms in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England for several years.
However, the group has become so popular, it has attracted members from as far away as Australia, the USA, Canada, Spain, and Italy.
The flood of visitors has forced the mum-of-two to enlist the help of international staff members to keep her customers entertained when she goes to bed.
She currently has a team of ten made up of “bar staffers”, who talk to customers, and “bouncers”, who moderate the people allowed into the pub.
Hundreds of people have been sharing selfies of them enjoying a tipple from home as they tune in to watch DJ sets on a Friday night or a comedy show on a Sunday.
Bowtell, who is from Spondon, Derby, says the pub is the biggest she has ever ran—and the page has turned into a full-time job during the COVID-19 outbreaks.
“It started as just a way for locals in Melton Mowbray who knew the pub to keep in touch,” she added. “Now, I’ve got people in Hawaii tuning in to watch a DJ set and people stranded in Italy watching comedy nights with their mum in Britain.
“It has completely blown up. We’ve got 3,000 members just waiting for approval—it’s like there’s a queue at the door to get in,” says Bowtell. “It’s the biggest pub I’ve ever ran and I can’t believe how popular it has become.