Living The Dream

Lorraine Currie and Peter Trotter’s long held dream of running their own pub came true in 2018. But just two years into their stewardship of The Hare and Hounds in the picturesque Sussex village of Framfield, a global pandemic looked set to scupper their plans. In just 24 short months, Lorraine and Peter had stamped their personality on The Hare and Hounds, delighted the local community and started to project their reputation further afield through positive word of mouth. Winning CAMRA’s Northeast Sussex Pub of the Year in 2020, becoming a Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice, two year’s running and reaching the finals of the Uckfield Business Awards in 2018 for best place to eat, their combination of good beer, hearty food and a cheery smile was proving to be a successful formula. Lorraine, a self-confessed Vintage Girl and serial upcycler, has tastefully turned this historic 17th Century Inn into a treasure trove crammed full of interesting objets d’art, period pieces and trinkets. The restaurant and bar are furnished with refurbished tables and chairs that add to the eclecticism and create a cosy, comfortable environment in which one could easily lose a few hours. Leaving a 25-year career as a school business manager, Lorraine developed transferrable skills that have been invaluable in turning a dream into reality. “Peter and I had been looking for the perfect pub for a while”, explained Lorraine, “Peter’s background is historically in the building trade, after which he set up a successful seafood stall. We’re not shy of hard work and long hours, so owning a pub seemed to be the perfect next step for us. “My passion is upcycling, but with my skills in business management and Peter’s practical abilities, I think we make a great team. “It took us quite a while to find The Hare and Hounds as we had really specific requirements, not least that we needed a free of tie arrangement so we could serve our customers with the food and drink they want. When we found it, we knew it was right. Framfield is such a beautiful village with a wonderful community. “We presented our business plan to The Wellington Pub Company and before long we had our names above the door. It was a really easy process and it helped us fulfil our dream of becoming publicans. “It was all going so well; our chef moved into the accommodation above the pub, we purchased the cottage next door, which had luckily become available, and the food and drink was proving popular. Then COVID came.” As with pubs all over the country, the Hare and Hounds was forced to close for over seven months. “This is when Wellington came into their own and we were overwhelmed with the support we received which entailed a period of rent free and concessionary rent to get us through the worst times” “We took the time in lockdown to work on the garden, Peter created a fully heated undercover seating area from scratch. We both tidied up the lawns and borders and even installed a children’s play area. “By the time we re-opened, the local community had seen all of our hard work and were keen to get back to us. The garden clearly helped us accommodate people safely and within government guidelines. And while it’s a very different trading environment, we’ve started to bring back entertainment including live music; outside of course. “Things are really starting to pick up post lockdown, we’re looking forward to the years ahead.” Lorraine and Peter’s clear strategy, commitment, creativity and flexibility have combined to make them successful in a challenging environment. Their recovery post lockdown has been nothing short of remarkable and we wish them a long and prosperous tenancy.

When The Stars Align

Opening its doors in October 2018, The Black Dog Beer House represented the dreams and passions of Pete, Ash and James, all of whom travelled the globe to set up shop in the contested county town of Brentford, Middlesex.

Pete and Ash had spent 9 years running craft pubs for other people and Pete’s brother, James, had travelled the world delighting punters with his wonderfully eclectic cuisine. This was always going to be a recipe for success.

Despite its tender age, The Black Dog Beer House has made an impressive impact. A quick look at the traditionally caustic pages of TripAdvisor reveals a series of fans waxing lyrical about this self-styled ‘boozer’. ‘Fantastic addition to the West London beer scene’ says one happy punter, ‘Ridiculously good pub’ says another, ‘Brentford’s best pub’ adds a further devotee; the complements go on.

Browsing the offer, it’s not hard to see why The Black Dog Beer House has become so popular so quickly. With 14 keg lines, 5 real ales, 5 real ciders and over 50 bottled beverages one will not be short of choice. Then there’s the menu. James calls this simple food done well. That’s just Antipodean modesty (?!). Try grilled Angus ribeye, chimichurri, roasted sweet potato, grilled broccolini and fries on for size. Or maybe twice cooked pork belly, yellow bean gravy noodles, pickled shiitake and chili jam. Even the vegan options sound awesome, rice & wakame stuffed cabbage roll, miso roasted king oyster mushrooms and tofu, avocado, cucumber & ponzu dressing anyone?

And then there’s the pub itself. Pete insists it’s a traditional boozer. If this is true, maybe we should all spend a little more time in Australia. To be honest, the outside is a typically London affair with stained glass and flashes of exposed brick between the rendered pillars. Step inside and you’re welcomed into a well-appointed cultural mixing pot featuring more exposed brickwork and fixings reminiscent of the capital’s industrial past, flashes of Australian heritage and a large dose of the team’s individual personalities. There’s even a turntable playing vinyl from Pete’s extensive collection. This is cool.

So exactly how did the stars align to create this wonderful watering hole?

“The Black Dog, or The Albany Arms as it was then, had been on our radar for a good three years before we took control,” says Pete, “Ash and I had been running craft beers for 9 years for other people, so we had a good idea of what we wanted to create.

“It’s surprising how difficult it is to find a truly free of tie pub, unless you want to take on a freehold of course. That wasn’t an option for us, so Wellington’s model suited us perfectly.

“We spent a long time on the business plan, we knew we wanted to create a destination pub attracting people from further afield as well as locals, and with our experience we knew we could do that. The Wellington Pub Company reviewed our business plan and basically let us get on with doing what we do best.

“We had complete freedom to create our pub. We decide what drinks we stock, what food we serve and what environment we create. That’s essential for us, when you believe in a concept you really don’t want someone else diluting it.

“It took us a couple of months of solid labor to get the pub the way we wanted it and we’re really happy with the results. We’ve even set up our own on-site microbrewery, Fearless Nomad, and our first beer is due soon.

“Wellington have been great to work with and we will no doubt work with them again when we’re in a position to expand.”

Identifying Opportunities

Brothers Matt and Tim Taylor have hospitality in their blood. Independently, they ran bars and restaurants in London, Manhattan, Fort Lauderdale, The Alps and Canada before reuniting to make an impact on the Brighton pub scene.

Marriage and children saw both brothers move to nearby Worthing; an altogether calmer place to raise a family.

“When we moved to Worthing, it was interesting to see that everyone still travelled to Brighton to go out for a meal or a few drinks,” said Tim, “Of course, Brighton has a unique atmosphere and a wealth of pubs, clubs and restaurants, we just couldn’t understand why Worthing had nothing to offer.

“Matt and I decided that we’d open The Beach House on Worthing seafront in 2013. It was very cool and was immediately popular.

“Having proven the formula, we set about looking for a new venue. We’d noticed that The Corner House was available, and it seemed perfect, with plenty of outdoor space and a very versatile interior with some great original features including high ceilings and big windows.

“We contacted the agent and negotiated a deal with the outgoing tenant, before preparing a business plan for the landlord (Wellington Pub Co) which was accepted.  As soon as we completed the lease assignment we started the renovation by putting in new floors, new electrics and a new boiler. We then installed a trade kitchen, renovated the 1st floor apartment and opened 6 weeks later.

“It was completely Free of Tie, so we were free to offer an interesting range of local craft beers and explore trends, like the current popularity of craft gins. Our eclectic range of drinks mixed with locally sourced food are vital ingredients in our unique business model, something a tied pub is unable to offer. We understand that in this day and age, we must offer a luxury product, and provide our customers with what they want. Every customer must leave feeling they’ve had a great experience.

Customers love our hearty home cooked food and we take pride in the fact that we prepare a lot of the ingredients ourselves, even down to our bread and ice-cream which is lovingly created by our chefs on-site.”

“That was in 2015 and we haven’t looked back!”

Award Winning Restaurateur Opens Second Venue

It’s been four years since Ben Hutton left University with a degree in Zoology and immediately set up ‘Ben’s Restaurant’ in his hometown of Bury St Edmunds. What, on the face of it, seems to be an unusual series of events is anything but to Ben. “I’ve always worked in the catering trade,” said Ben “I started working in local pubs at the age of 14 and to be honest, I’ve always enjoyed it. “I had a very clear vision when I opened Ben’s Restaurant; it had to celebrate the best of Suffolk’s produce. We now even raise some of our own Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs and Jacob sheep.” This commitment to quality led to an array of award nominations culminating in winning the Suffolk Food and Drinks Award in the ‘Field to Fork’ category in 2016.` Soon after opening his first restaurant, Ben identified his next opportunity. “The Queen’s Head is just down the road from Ben’s. I always had it in the back of my mind and was able to recognise an opportunity when I saw it was ‘to let’. “I approached the agents and took a look around. It looked unloved but I knew I could do something with it. “I prepared a business plan for The Wellington Pub Company which included my investment proposal for refurbishing the venue. A rent-free period was negotiated in return for my investment and we signed the deal very soon after. “It took me and my family 6 weeks to complete the refurbishment and we opened ‘Queen’s Bar and Grill’ in mid August.” “Queens has a more relaxed offer as it’s more of a bar than a restaurant. It offers a wide range of local beers, which Wellington’s ‘free of tie’ lease agreement allows us to do, and a burgers, ribs and steak style menu. “The good news is that the new venue is trading better than expected. The locals are delighted that their pub is once again open for business. We have developed a loyal customer base and the future looks bright.” Although Ben isn’t looking immediately for new opportunities, the long-term goal is to open more restaurants in the area if the right opportunities arise. See

Accommodating Pubs

But it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The Hobgoblin closed its doors in 2017; some mourned its passing; others didn’t. So what next for this venue in the heart of the most popular UK tourist destination outside London? Step forward Ben Nathan, an experienced publican with an in-depth knowledge of Bath’s tourism scene… and a well-defined plan. Having made a success out of his other Bath based pub, The Thief, Ben knew exactly what to do with The Hobgoblin. Sourcing beer and food from local microbreweries and producers was a must; so Wellington’s famous ‘free of tie’ formula was a winner. Investment in refurbishing the whole building was next on the agenda. This part of the project was going to be costly, but Wellington stepped forward with rent concessions to lighten the burden. But the real clincher was the accommodation. Ben’s business plan was based on solid evidence from The Thief. Accommodation was key to the success of running a pub in a sought after tourist hot spot; and The Hobgoblin, now renamed The Black Fox, allowed for nine rooms over three floors. “It took us five months to bring it up to scratch,” said Beb, “We opened the bar at The Black Fox just before Christmas and started serving food two months later. The rooms were ready in July in time for the height of the tourist season.” “We originally found the pub through Wellington’s own website and made a booking to view it. I have to say the whole process has been pretty straightforward. We supplied a business plan, which was tweaked here and there, then negotiated rent concessions and ongoing rent. Everything was very clear and the team was flexible and supportive. “We have ambitious expansion plans and would definitely work with Wellington again. I think they understand our model and are keen to make it work together.”

Jodi Foulds, Ego Ackworth, The Beverley Arms

Relocated from Ego’s Sheffield restaurant, Jodi runs the newest outlet in the 3Sixty empire. And just 3 months in to her role, she can report an impressive 1,300 covers per week – 40% above target!

But to what does Jodi attribute her success?

“We focus on the basics,” explained Jodi “And we do it very well.”

“We serve well cooked, fresh food in a welcoming family environment; we’re very active in our community and we absolutely understand the power of social networking and customer loyalty.”

Indeed, Ego Restaurants can boast 80,000 Ego Club members and an average of 4,000 Twitter followers per outlet.

CEO James Horler explained, “Our Ego brand has demonstrated that social media and local marketing can make a difference. We now have one of the highest numbers of followers on Twitter and our Ego Club continues to go from strength to strength. We are keen to continue expanding the business within our own resources and it’s with the hard work and dedication of people like Jodi and her team that we are able to achieve that.”

“We were introduced to the Beverley Arms by a third party. It was in a bit of a sad state when we saw it and required a significant investment to bring it up to our standards. We worked very closely with The Wellington Pub Company to achieve this and the whole process has been very smooth.

“The Beverley Arms is only our second pub conversion, but we anticipate doing many more. It’s a great way to keep the property alive; by introducing a quality food offer we can make it more profitable. I’d say we’re trading at ten times what The Beverley was doing before.”

“We are looking for new opportunities throughout the Midlands and the North and I hope Wellington can provide more suitable sites.”

John and Michael Higginson, The Lord Nelson, Norwich

Standing in an idyllic location on the bank of the River Yare, looking out over Norfolk’s flat plains, this beautiful oak and stone fronted pub has been unloved for a while. Unfortunately, since its closure, many other businesses in the vicinity have struggled to attract the passing custom that breathes life into a small village with a population of just 900.

Enter brothers John and Michael Higginson. They are a team who are not shy of a challenge. And the Lord Nelson, latest pub in their six strong portfolio, is certainly challenging.

“When the Wellington Pub Company showed us The Lord Nelson, we jumped on it straight away,” explains John, “It’s a gut feeling really, most people will have looked at this and thought there’s far too much work involved in getting it ready to open. But we fell in love with it.

“It’s going to take us a good six months to refurbish it, but once complete, we hope it will breathe life into Reedham once more. It occupies such a prominent position by the river that you can’t help but notice it as you pass by. It gives people a reason to stop and experience the village.

“That’s not to say that this is a wholly altruistic project, we obviously need to make it work. Throughout our portfolio of North Norfolk pubs, we work with local producers of beer and food. The Lord Nelson will be an ale pub with a focus on good quality freshly prepared pub food. Add live music into the mix and I believe we’ll have a recipe for success.”

The Lord Nelson is the second Wellington Pub Company property in the brothers’ portfolio. And they don’t plan for it to be their last.

“The Wellington Pub Company are so easy to deal with,” continued John, “We just deliver our business plan and receive an answer very quickly. They have a true entrepreneurial spirit and that shows though. You feel that they really want you to succeed and they don’t stand in your way. As long as the figures add up, they’re right behind you, 100%”.