Monthly Archives: December 2017

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Would you like to advertise with us?

We do not push advertising, since our readers are people looking for business information and help.

This puts them in the category of looking for reliable business agents and reliable companies that have pubs/restaurants etc. to lease or tenancies.

They are also looking for suppliers of all commodities and they will in due course want IT help for the building of web sites and SEO help etc.

If you decide that you would like to advertise with us, we offer various options, we will give you an article about your company and what you can do for a possible business buyer, with a link to that article from either the front page or other regular articles.

We ensure that your article is in place with the relevant links, before payment is made.

Our terms start at:-£25.00 for one calendar month, paid in advance.

£45.00 for two calendar months, paid in advance.

£60.00 for three calendar months, paid in advance.

We are open to other suggestions for advertising, we used to advertise on an annual basis, but we have for the moment, looked at shorter term advertising.

We also give you free access to all our Checklists for your clients whilst you are advertising. (Takeover Day, Leaving Checklists, Licensed Property, Catering, Retail, Sole Trader)


House of Lords to debate Government response to Select Committee Report on the Licensing Act 2003

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House of Lords to debate Government response to Select Committee Report on the Licensing Act 2003

Posted: 19 Dec 2017 07:00 AM PST

On Wednesday 20 December, the House of Lords is due to debate the Government’s (limited) response to the recommendations set out in the Select Committee Report  see our article on the Government response to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 for more detail of that response. We will update further thereafter.


ALMR launches gold-standard diploma scheme for UK hospitality

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ALMR launches gold-standard diploma scheme for UK hospitality

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) is pleased to announce the launch of the ALMR Diploma for the UK’s hospitality sector. The first stage is designed for Level 2 Hospitality Team Members, both front and back-of-house, but will be expanded to cover a broad range of hospitality careers.

Employees will undergo training that leads to the achievement of a recognised gold-standard that will be delivered by HIT Training and end-tested by BIIAB. Apprentices will have the opportunity to sit six industry-leading modules on:

Customer service
Award for underage sales prevention
Drugs awareness
Conflict management
Food safety in catering
Award for personal licence holders

These modules will be provided by CPL Training and will be delivered via e-learning online, with the exception of the Award for Personal Licence Holders, which will be sat face-to-face.

The Diploma will be launched by ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls at the annual Christmas Lunch on 19 December at Old Billingsgate, London in front of 1,200 sector leaders, with enrolment beginning in January 2018.

ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “The ALMR Hospitality Diploma will provide the UK’s hospitality businesses with an all-inclusive, exhaustive training and assessment scheme designed to meet the myriad demands of this innovative and varied sector.

“The Diploma will also provide employees with the support and education they need to progress within the sector, and will deliver a solid foundation for a potentially long and rewarding career, and a senior role within our dynamic industry.”

Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training, commented: “We are delighted to be partnering with the ALMR on this great new initiative, which will not only provide both young employees and those new to the industry with the support and development they need, but also a chance for us to show the great work being done in this fantastic and supportive sector by highlighting the exciting and varied careers that exist. We are looking forward to working with the ALMR to develop supervisory and management apprenticeships in 2018.”

Anthony Pender, Chairman of the British Institute of Innkeeping added: “This streamlined and valuable Diploma will ensure young employees are given the best start on the road to a long and rewarding career with us.”

Paul Chase, Head of UK Compliance at CPL Training: “The ALMR Diploma represents the opportunity to gain a gold-plated apprenticeship standard that will set the benchmark for learning and development within the sector.”

How to:- pair cheese,  Speciality Food Magazine

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How to:- pair cheese,  Speciality Food Magazine

Clare Jackson of Slate, a specialist cheese retailer and delicatessen in Aldeburgh, walks us through her ultimate cheese pairing suggestions

Blue: Blue cheeses are wonderfully enhanced by a touch of sweetness to cut through their tangy, metallic taste. We love walnuts and a drizzle of honey with blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola and Cropwell Bishop Stilton sits well on traditional Scottish oatcakes.

Hard: Hard cheese like Lincolnshire Poacher taste amazing with walnuts and freshly sliced apples. Fruit cheese is also a brilliant accompaniment – we source ‘loaves’ of fruit cheese to display in our cheese counter and serve in slices.

Soft: You can’t beat a classic cracker such as Peter’s Yard Original Crispbread with a dollop of our homemade Chilli Jam. Our local soft cheese Baron Bigod is phenomenal served like this.

Washed Rind: The strong flavour of these cheeses needs something crisp to accompany it, we recommend a crisp Sauvignon Blanc to go with our washed rind cheese of local origins St Cera.

ALMR welcomes London Mayor’s rates commitment 

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ALMR welcomes London Mayor’s rates commitment 

The ALMR has welcomed the London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s pledge to cut business rates for hospitality businesses.

We are extremely grateful that the London Mayor has recognised the critical issue of wholesale reform of the business rates system. The capital’s late-night bars, restaurants, live music and clubbing venues are rightly recognised as some of the most vibrant and progressive in the world and are a vital part of sustainable hospitality sector.

There have been some positive signals recently with London’s Night Czar Amy Lame acknowledging the value of the night time economy in the capital and taking steps to protect and nurture it. Business rates rises are a clear threat to investment, growth and job creation in the sector and the Government must act and push ahead with reform.

Christmas West Country Gin Cocktails from “Rise and Shine”


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Signature Chukka Cocktail
British Polo Gin
Tel 01452 730770

British Polo Gin was created with this bespoke cocktail in mind. It’s the best apres polo thirst quencher.

2 parts British Polo Botanical Gin
1 part sugar syrup
1 part fresh lemon juice
4 parts soda

Shake gin, lemons and sugar syrup.
Pour over cubes of ice.
Top up with soda water.
Garnish with mint leaves and fresh summer fruits.



Apple & Blackberry Crumble
Cotswold Distillery

Phillips Field, Whichford Road, Stourton, Shipston-on-Stour, CV36 5HG.
Tel 01608 238533

45ml Cotswolds Dry Gin
8 blackberries
15ml cinnamon liqueur
12.5ml lime juice
50ml apple juice
8ml Orgeat (almond syrup)

Rim the martini glass with oat crumble. Muddle 8 blackberries in a Boston tin, fill with ice and add all the other ingredients. Shake and strain into a martini glass and serve.
Embellish with crumble rim, apple & blackberry.


Isle of Wight Distillery

Rosemary Vineyard, Smallbrook Ln, Ryde, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO33 4BE.
Tel 01983 613653

Our favourite cocktail is the Bramble, created by King of Cocktails Dick Bradsell.

50ml Wight Mermaids Gin
12.5ml lemon juice
12.5ml Gomme syrup
25ml Creme de Mure (Blackberry Liqueur)

Shake and strain the first three ingredients into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Drizzle in the Creme de Mure and garnish with fresh blackberries.


Turkish Delight
Newton House Gin

Newton Surmaville, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 2RX.
Tel 07793 950 811
50ml of Newton House Gin
20ml of Monin Rose Syrup
12.5ml of fresh lemon juice
One egg white

Dry shake (no ice) the above ingredients until frothy.
Add plenty of ice to the shaker, and shake for eight seconds.
Strain and fine strain into a coupe glass.
Add a rose petal to garnish.



The Christmas GINgle
Salcombe Distilling Co.

The Boathouse, Island Street, Salcombe, TQ8 8DP, South Devon.
Tel 01548 288180

1 part (50ml) Salcombe Gin Start Point
1.5 parts (75ml) Luscombe Cranberry Crush
2 parts (100ml) Luscombe Passionate Ginger Beer
5ml fresh lime juice
3 thin slices of fresh ginger
10 fresh or frozen cranberries
A sprig of fresh mint

1. Add Salcombe Gin, fresh lime juice, 5 cranberries and 2 slices of fresh ginger to a Boston shaker glass.
2. Add ice and shake vigorously,
3. Fill a large highball with ice.
4. Double strain the mixture over the ice into the glass using a Hawthorne strainer and fine sieve.
5. Add Luscombe Cranberry Crush followed by Luscombe Passionate Ginger Beer and stir.
6. Garnish with 5 cranberries, a sprig of fresh mint and the remaining fresh ginger sliced into thin julienne matchsticks.


The Trevethan Martini
Trevethan Cornish Craft Distillery

Trevethan Distillery, Prideaux Close, Tamar View, Cornwall, PL12 6LD.
Tel 07967 401830

A very simple yet sophisticated martini cocktail¦

Trevethan Cornish Craft Gin
Knightor Dry Vermouth
Lemon grass

This one couldn’t be easier. Add 50ml of Trevethan Cornish Gin to a cocktail shaker with 25-30ml of dry vermouth. Next, add a 2cm piece of lemongrass and a sprig of rosemary and stir.
Chill down a martini glass again and double strain the cocktail into the glass. Next, wrap a sprig of rosemary around a piece of lemongrass and add as a garnish.


Wolf Negroni
Wicked Wolf Gin

The Old Chapel, Brendon, Devon EX35 6PT.
(Please note we are not open to the public)
Email info@wickedwolfgin.comIngredients
45ml Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin
25ml Campari
25ml Sweet vermouth (Lillet Blanc, Cinzano, or Noilly Prat)

Stir all three ingredients with ice into a glass, then strain into a cocktail glass over ice and garnish with an orange twist.

Buying a Country Pub, Part 5

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002Buying a Country Pub, Part 5

One of my regular locals owned a Guest House a mile up the valley from the Pub. He had semi retired from Leicester, moving down to Exmoor with a fairly recent Wife.

She seemed determined to make her mark in the Guest House business whilst her Husband Paul was adopting a more “Laid back approach.” He enjoyed fancy cars, fishing and drinking, his Wifes views on his drinking became well known to me.

They duly introduced themselves to me since I represented a source of customers, which suited me fine since it is always good to share the business around. She told me that she very seldom ever drank and proceeded to get completely out of her “Brains,” on rough cider. She was duly carried out and transported home by her Husband and she was not a little woman. Her visits to the Pub were very infrequent, but when she did chaos prevailed and her exit was always the same.

Paul’s behaviour was always very dignified, he would stand there drinking with very little effect and usually be among the last to leave, climb into his Jaguar and drive home.

This carried on for about six months, then at about twelve thirty one night the phone went, I took the call and a voice said could they speak to Paul, I passed the phone over and it practically exploded, everyone in the Bar could hear the screeching coming out of the ear piece. Paul calmly put the phone down and carried on drinking as usual.

This obviously caused me some concern, since wives can cause a lot of problems for Landlords, especially when the drinking habits of the locals are continually causing a breach of the law in the eyes of the Police. Not that the Police were overly worried, since they were found drinking after hours in a variety of pubs on Exmoor on their days’ off anyway.

I preferred to be diplomatic and spoke to Paul voicing my concern, he told me to ignore it, which I did.

His Wife came in shortly afterwards became noisy and paralytic on rough cider and I carried on as though nothing strange had happened, she was duly helped out as usual.

About a week later the phone went at twelve thirty again, I took precautions and told the bar to be quiet, picked up the phone and in a drousy voice said “Rockford Inn,” a voice screamed down the phone “Where’s my B……. Husband, I suppose he’s in your B……. Pub rotten drunk.” I explained that she had woken me up and that I was in bed and had closed at eleven o’clock. She apologised profusely and rang off, and every one continued drinking.

The next week at a similar time she phoned up again, I used the same  ploy, only this time instead of ringing off she screamed down the phone, “Don’t lie to me your’e not in bed your’e standing in the bar, I’ll send the Police in for breaking the law and ruining perfectly good families through serving drinks after hours.” I immediately got hold of Paul and told him what she had said, he told me to ignore it and he would sort her out. As a precaution I cleared the bar in case she did phone the Police, the locals in turn would all moan at her in the village the next day for ruining their evening. I was pleased because I was able to get to bed early for a change.

The next week she came in and got completely paralytic on rough cider as though nothing had happened.

Paul came in early one evening with Dudley determined to have a heavy night, I said that I was going to close early since I had been far too late the previous night and they left at ten o’clock for Brendon Manor.

I duly got to bed to be woken up by the phone at one thirty in the morning, in a very bleary voice I answered, to be met with a stream of abuse about a drunken husband. I explained that I was in bed, which had no effect and my wife took over. She explained that Paul had gone with Dudley before closing time and the phoned was slammed down, we retired to sleep.

At two o’clock the phone rang again, this time she said “Enough of your lies he’s still in your Pub, Dudley sent him home hours ago.” I slammed the phone down this time.

The next morning I phoned Dudley in case Paul had driven into the river or a ditch to be told the cleaning lady had found him out cold on Dudley’s kitchen table with his false teeth resting on his forehead.

They had both drunk so much whisky that Dudley couldn’t remember what happened and Paul passed out. Dudley remembered someone ringing up during the night but couldn’t remember what it was about.

I was of course held totally responsible by Paul’s wife.

One very busy Summer evening Paul came into the bar, sat on one of the settles and proceeded in his usual fashion to consume a fairly reasonable amount of beer. He seemed to be totally disinterested in talking to any of the other locals,  which  was slightly unusual. My Brother-in-law David, was giving me a hand behind the bar, about an hour after official closing time I noticed Paul’s complexion had gone from pink to red. I told David to keep an eye on Paul since he appeared to be on a course of possible self destruction. Shortly after I noticed that Paul had gone from pink to white followed by a grey colour. I told David to grab him and get him outside as fast as possible by which time he was a lighter shade of green and totally incoherent. David suggested I put him in my car, I rapidly declined and said put him in his own car and you drive him back and I would pick him up in my car. I told David to park Paul’s car as far away from the Guest House as posssible and leave Paul in it, since the Guest House had a large car park, some way from the main house.

David was only to delighted to drive Paul’s latest fancy car, I wondered whether Paul might be violently ill in it, which he might have difficulty explaining to his wife in the cold light of day. I parked at a discreet distance away but with a good view and realised to my horror that David was carrying Paul away from the car towards their main front door. The building being an old Devon Long House with numerous doors, I told David to leave him with the car but Paul said “Jush’ get me to the door I’shll be alright,” I wasn’t worried about him, I was worried about his wife. David had no experience of her antics, having spent the last six months in New Zealand, I had visions of a shot gun being fired at us from one of the upstairs windows or being pursued through the village by a raging termagent, screaming abuse, she was also considerably larger than both David and I.

Paul was not going to let go of David until he reached the front door, I turned the car round and left it with the doors open and engine running and gave David a hand to the front door , by this stage lights were being turned on at the end of the house and this dreadful screaming started sounding something like “I’ll kill you B…….rds,” I told David to leave Paul leaning against the door and get in the car, as he did so the door opened, Paul fell headlong into the hall and his wife, saying “Sshurrup Woman, sshurrup Woman.” His wife then rushed into the road screaming that she would seek eternal retribution and many other four letter words, by which stage lights were coming on all round the village, I looked back and she looked like a large white spectre waving her arms in the middle of the road, in daylight she was not a pretty sight during the day, at night she looked horrible.

By the time we got back to the pub she had been screaming abuse on the phone to my wife much to the amusement of the customers. To be fair it was extremely funny at the time but I was concerned, Paul was always very polite and not in the least aggresive and I had visions of him being beaten to death by his large wife. He appeared the next day with a slight hangover and his wife duly appeared a few weeks later and got totally legless on scrumpy as always.

The local farmers  would go to great lengths to find a musician capable of playing a musical instrument moderately well whilst totally under the influence of drink, to accompany them with their singing. Their singing was amusing but would never win a talent contest even if they censored the lyrics. We even had some notable Country Music people who came to listen and discover some Exmoor Folk songs. I explained that nothing ever happened until after hours because the content of the majority of the songs could possibly cause offence, and anyone there after hours was there illegally so they couldn’t complain anyay. They stayed and played and listened and were the best Musicians to grace the Pub certainly in my time, whether they learn’t anything that was publishable I never found out.

One of the local musicians, who played the accordion was commonly known as Banjo, he apparently achieved this name because he could never pronounce accordion when he was under the inluence of drink, which was fairly frequent. He was short with pebble glasses, which he frequently lost,  and in the main his dialogue took a considerable amount of translation by the locals under normal circumstances.  His regular occupation was that of a high wire man for the Electricity Board, I found this hard to believe because of his pebble glasses and inability to ever appear sober, certainly when he was in the pub.

My first encounter with him was during a particularly noisy night, he appeared totally incoherent added to a broad Exmoor accent, I was assured that he was in reasonably good shape before he left at closing time. I subsequently discovered that he had driven out of the car park  and turned right instead of left, for Porlock and came too in Barnstaple eighteen miles away.

A few weeks later he was in the same state, it was suggested that the rear of his car be chained to the railings in the car park to prevent him driving, since it had proved impossible to get the keys off him. The next morning I found part of the rear end of a Ford Anglia chained to the railings, I gave up after that.

There were numerous incidents with Banjo, since he seemed to have a love, hate relationship with his accordion as the alcohol took effect. At the beginning of the evening it was his most treasured possession, by the end of the evening it was like a wheesing caterpillar wrapped round him or frequently falling to the floor as he lost his grip. My final recollection was of Banjo stomping towards the door the accordion falling down a short flight of steps, rather like the childs toy in the form of a spring that runs downstairs, only this sounded like a wind instrument breathing it’s last, very much out of tune.

His career as a high wireman came to a sad end when he touched a live cable, it would seem that this was not the first occasion, the first time the local story was that the alcohol protected him, this may be partly true since people under the influence are normally totally relaxed when the hit the ground, there was a story that he may have been in danger of exploding if the alcohol had ignited.
The Austin Seven club were annual visitors arriving with up to twenty four vintage cars, they camped in a farmers field, consumed enormous quantities of beer and caused us to keep late hours as usual. They seemed to be people from all walks of life but all sharing a passionate love of the old Austin Seven. On the Sunday wherever you went on the moor there seemed to be Austin Sevens’ being driven feverishly around, they always appeared to be driven by extra large people packed into these little cars, many sporting beards or whiskers and wearing period clothes. The Police would comment the next week, that I had obviously closed on time? Since all the lights were off with about twenty antique cars parked outside and in the car park at one o’clock in the morning.

The London Taxi drivers were very similar, about ten boxy London Taxis would arrive with an assortment of East End Characters in them, money brokers, city dealers, barrow boys, even a taxidermist. Some came for the fishing, others for the riding, in the evening they would come in for a meal, a lot of drinking and singing, the farmers would arrive and an endless joke session with typical East End humour, followed by cards. We would eventually get to bed at about four o’clock, desperately trying to remember the jokes for the next onslaught of visitors.
They normally stayed for about three days, which was very lucrative, funny and exhausting.
Their tales of the antics of their cutomers were almost unbelievable, but so many of them had similar experiences, that they had to be true.
One group who came from Biggin Hill appeared about six times a year and normally caused untold mayhem, their children assuming that they ever survived that long would cringe at their antics if related to them to-day.

They would come rushing down on a Friday night in an assortment of Range Rovers, a red E type Jaguar provided the driver had not lost his licence for drinking and driving, which he did twice in our time. They consisted of an Airline Pilot, an assortment of othe Pilots, including a fifty plus ex-Spitfire Pilot with a voluptuous, wealthy eighteen year old girl friend known as “Biscuit,” because they all thought she was “Crackers,” associating with someone old enough to be her Grandfather.
They always stayed at Doone Cottage opposite the pub, which was terrific business for us.
The amount of people that stayed there varied constantly and their sleeping arrangements did not bear scrutiny.
The story was that Biscuit always painted the ex Spitfire pilot with Honey and licked it off before they went to sleep, the mind naturally boggles at such stories.
They asked me back after the pub had shut to play cards, which I duly did. At about three o’clock in the morning, Biscuit appears in a shorty see  through nightie, looking magnificent with a jar of honey saying to her elderly friend, “Are you coming to bed?”
Whether it was a set up for my benefit  I will never know, but it was another interesting experience.
Dick had never ever been a respecter of time and least of all of my time, having decided that I was totally reliable, not particularly squeemish and a country boy at heart, would phone me at any hour.
The phone would go at three o’clock in the morning asking if I was still open, I would point out that since he was not there I had closed on time and was in bed.
The first phone call at this time, he said he had a problem one of his cows had gone down and could I come up to the farm to get her back on her feet.
I might have been borne in the country, but cows I have always avoided, since they tend to kick, stamp and butt with spiky things that stick out of a very hard skull.
My wife thought me totally mad as I put my clothes on and walked out of the bedroom.
I drove up to the farm to be met by Dick, he had phoned the vet, who I am sure was about as delighted as I was.
The cow was a somewhat substantial animal being used for beef and she was trying to calve. She had been standing in stall with block walls and had fallen over with the strain and effort, since in spite of their size they have very narrow hips, making calving quite tricky.
John Ridd was there, the three of us then had to manhandle the cow back on her feet in a confined space, not an easy job, we finally succeeded.
I was about to leave and Dick said we hadn’t finished yet, we still had to get the calf off. I am not good on medical emergencies unless I am the only one left to attend and this was one of those moments.
The cow was trying to calve and a pair of hooves appeared at the tail end and stopped, Dick put a rope round the hooves and gave one end to me and the other to John and we both pulled, nothing happened, finally we both had our feet pushing against the wall and pulling as hard as we could and the calf finally came away, to everyones’ relief, the cow included. The calf was fine and the vet arrived as we finished. It would appear that the calf was not affected by our efforts with the rope, I had visions of pulling it’s legs out of joint.
When I eventually got back to the pub and told my wife, she said that I hadn’t offered to help when the boys were born, I pointed out that she had not been in a barn and the only medical equipment had been a piece of rope.
Dick phoned me again at the same time on another night, with the same problem, but the calf died sadly.
He phoned me again one morning asking if I would go up to the farm in the afternoon, since he had a problem, it was lambing time, John Ridd was there and one of Dick’s workers.
Dick made us all swear eternal silence, at least in the short term.
A vixen had been killing lambs and we had to dig it out, I asked about the hunt, because they normally take responsibility for the foxes if they are a nuisance.
This one had found it too easy killing new born lambs to feed her cubs, unfortunately they do not necessarily kill to eat, but kill out of habit, possibly the ewe had chased her off after killing the lamb and she had gone after other ones, causing havoc.
If the Hunt find that you have killed a fox, they will ostracise you completely, especially on Exmoor at that time and we certainly were very reliant on the various hunts for business during the week in the pub.
We survived for four years with the total madness of Exmoor, the pub was successful, the bizarre antics of customers and almost unbelievable stories, were the same but slightly different each year.
My brother-in-law left the Merchant Navy and decided that he wanted to buy the pub and after due negotiation we settled on a deal, much to my Wife’s relief since we had four young children and a fifth on his way.
The rigours of late night drinking with the farmers and working flat out during the day, made me wonder whether I was verging on becoming an alcoholic.
I declined any form of alcohol for two weeks and had absolutely no side effects, much to my relief.
We then retired to Cornwall for a year before buying some more pubs and crazy businesses, I am sure that I will remember the odd humorous story to insert in this epistle and I hope that you have enjoyed our antics on Exmoor. I personally think it is something everyone should do, buy a country pub, my Wife disagrees of course.

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JG&P, Latest Licensing Information

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Scotland – Report from Alcohol Focus Scotland

Alcohol Focus Scotland have released a report following their enquiry into the relationship between the Licensing Boards and the issue of public health. The report concludes that the current system for licensing is too complex and difficult for local people to get involved in shaping Licensing Policy and decision making and queried the purpose of the current licensing legislation. Alison Doug…

Gambling Commission Guidance on changes to Regulatory returns published

The Gambling Commission has published guidance on the changes to regulatory returns that will be coming into effect from April 2018.  Please note this guidance is relevant to all returns due from April 2018. The Gambling Commission state as follows; “The regulatory data consultation held in 2016, with responses published mid-2017, outlined the changes which will be made to regulat…

Westminster City Council use planning laws to put the “Brakes” on deliveries from operators

New rules are being put in place by Westminster City Council after they raised concerns over the use of Mopeds to deliver food from the 3,000 restaurants in the borough. The Council are requiring restaurants providing the service, to apply for planning permission for a change of use and demonstrate that it will cause minimal disruption. Council officials had a successful action against a bran…

Scotland: ‘Don’t Buy It, Don’t Supply It’s to prevent alcohol supply to under 18s

Preventing Adults buying Alcohol for under 18’s is the focus of a new campaign in Scotland. The initiative is to make Adults aware that they are committing an offence, if they are buying alcohol for an underage person. The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 makes its an offence for an adult caught supplying or buying alcohol for an under 18. This is punishable with a fine of up to …

ALMR: Scottish business rates proposals are a welcome trigger for wider reform


ALMR: Scottish business rates proposals are a welcome trigger for wider reform

Following the Scottish Finance Minister’s proposed Draft Budget announcement in Holyrood this afternoon, the ALMR has welcomed positive business rates measures.

With hospitality businesses hardest hit across the UK, ALMR’s CEO, Kate Nicholls welcomed the inclusion of almost all the Barclay Review recommendations in the Draft Budget, as well as additional proposals.

“The impact of business rates in the hospitality sector cannot be sustained, so this package of measures is good news for Scottish pubs, restaurants and clubs. Better still is that the move to CPI, which the Barclay Review felt was outside of its remit, will replace the higher RPI, and that larger businesses will benefit from a cut in the supplementary charge for large business premises, in line with England.

“Scotland is leading the way on business rates but there is still a real urgency for England and Wales to undertake root and branch reform of their systems, to deliver fairness to bricks and mortar businesses and hospitality operators that are among the worst hit. This will hopefully prompt further and swifter action in England and Wales.”

Buying a Country Pub, Part 4

bottle_bannerBuying a Country Pub, Part 4

The alterations were duly completed, with nicotine stained beams being erected everywhere and plaster work painted nicotine white to give that aged look. I actually found a beam with an old date carved into it which I put in a secondary position to make it look genuine rather than putting it in obvious view. A scavenge round the local junk dealers produced a wonderful array of old furniture and wall hanging clutter, which gave the right atmosphere in the end. I was very fortunate to buy a vast amount of green Wilton Haircord carpet, which was like plain Wilton but a lot tougher, it also matched a lot of the rubbish that came in on the farmers boots and could be hoovered up easily without staining.

The alterations meant that the door to the Snug Bar now opened on to the main bar as well. This created a slight problem since there was a step down inside the door, we placed notices everywhere saying “Please mind the step” to no avail. People would walk in and say “Isn’t this nice” lose their footing and fall headlong into a table and ultimately the floor. We moved the furniture back more than a body length, lifted the carpet and put three layers of foam underlay under the carpet, this finally solved the problem. Various customers had a fright but nobody hurt themselves.

One thing that we did discover during the alterations was when we lifted the raised wooden floor behind the bar. This had been fixed years before with gaps between the boards, consequently not only was there a nasty sticky black mess, but a vast quantity of old coins which had been dropped through the gaps. A lot were pure silver and quite old which I sold to a coin dealer some months later.

The alterations seemed to be approved by the majority of locals and the early holiday makers, which was quite a relief, since one frequently heard these terrible stories of an old pub being changed and business drying up because of general disapproval.

We had been up to Yorkshire during the Winter and stopped at a pub on Ilkley Moor for lunch. The pub was miles from anywhere and absolutely packed, when I asked about food I was told pay a fixed price and eat what you like. There was this enormous buffet and people piling up their plates and no staff, it seemed crazy but it was working extremely well and I thought after last Summer this is what we will do.

I told everyone that we were going to have a buffet with everything from fresh Salmon to cheese and depending what they had as the main meat which determined the price, they could eat as much salad as they liked. Everyone thought I had gone mad and I said we would put it on trial for a week. At the end of the week we had taken three times as much as we did normally with virtually no waste. People only took what they could eat and liked, cutting down the major waste problem of garnish which most people leave, if they are not salad eaters.

The Salmon, which I extracted from the river, used to be done in cutlets getting eleven or twelve to the fish, cooking it whole and offering as much as they liked taking it off the bone, we used to get sixteen portions to the fish, mainly because wealthy elderly ladies used to buy it and a cutlet was too much for them.Fishing Logo

In the height of the season the meanest customers were the rather snooty, townies doing Exmoor. Having discovered that they could have as much as they liked, you would see them discussing a strategy in a group, unfortunately they seemed to think all members of the Staff were deaf, blind and infirm. They would arrange for one person to take a plate and pile it as high as possible with the cheapest salad, then take three forks and share it in the garden out of sight. I would then take a smaller plate from under the table, put two large lettuce leaves all over the plate and one piece of cheese (being a cheese salad) in the middle of the plate, making it impossible to pile it high and also present them with one knife and fork smiling sweetly. This worked every time, fortunately for us the majority of people were fine but there are always the few that seem to be determined to short change someone   especially on holiday.

One Oriental visitor saw the Salmon and asked for a Salmon Salad. He then said would it be alright if he had just rice and none of the other help yourself salads, when we told him that he could, he  took the whole bowl of lightly curried rice and tipped it on his plate, much to our amazement and amusement.


We found numerous people appearing saying that we were in the Egon Ronay Guide, which we knew absolutely nothing about. Our catering in those days was very simple compared to our present standards and the only reason that we could think of for being mentioned was possibly, whoever came round had been given genuinely fresh salmon which I had caught before the pub opened that day. My ingenuity at providing a continual source of fresh salmon every day from the river was very stretched some days and bordered very close to the illegal. The challenge was great fun being an inveterate catcher of fish, the river was spectacularly beautiful and helped remove any hangover from the night before.

The river is a raging torrent at the bottom of a very steep valley with mainly scrub oak planted on the slopes, supposedly planted for ships timbers giving them a natural curve caused by the steepness of the sides. The river is a mass of pools with short waterfalls and large slippery rocks to clamber over. The salmon tend to be in the most inaccessible places and I have returned many times thoroughly soaked clutching a broken fishing rod, having slipped on a wet rock and fallen into the torrent, extremely sobering.

Easter came and went, again in a blur, but much more successfully, the alterations gave us more capacity and greater efficiency, we had been there a year and it seemed to be getting easier. Familiar faces started appearing, they all remember you and expect you to remember them, fortunately we developed a wonderful system of talking and prying to get an inkling as to who they were without offending them. Fictitious phone calls had to be made to check to see if anyone else on the staff knew who they were.

The total resident population of Rockford was no more than twelve people. The next door neighbour was a retired clergyman and his wife, called the Reverend Plummer, affectionately known as Rev by all and sundry, he was a delightful character with a fund of humorous stories.

One of which concerned the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The old Bishop died and wanted his ashes sprinkled on the Quantock Hills, the new Bishop carried this out during which time the wind changed direction and the new Bishop said he could taste the ashes for weeks.

Having been told this story a few weeks before, I had gone fishing at Dulverton and the owners of the lake asked me to give some instruction and help to a beginner, which I duly did, they were somewhat reserved in their introductions and it was only after the beginner had left, that they explained that it was the new Bishop of Bath and Wells, I would have loved to have asked him if the Rev’s story was true.


Opposite, beside the river and adjoining our car park was Tom Chester and his wife, who ran the Pottery Shop. They had witnessed all the antics of my predecessor, very much at first hand, since they had been keepers of the keys to the pub on  numerous occasions when unsuspecting residents had been left in charge, they had also fed the animals when they had realised that he had gone off and left Sam and a Golden Retriever locked in the bar. The Golden Retriever had been the main influence on Sam making him think that he was a dog, Sam having been brought up with him from a kitten.

The house next to us on the opposite side from the Rev contained Ray Beasley and his wife, his wife’s family had owned the pub during the War and for many years. Ray had taken it over after his father- in- law retired, from the stories the antics had not changed at all, only the mode of transport had become mechanical, rather than horse drawn.

Ray had a reputation for extracting vast numbers of Salmon from the river by any method he considered fit and transporting them in an old pram with the bottom removed and wood piled on top to avoid scrutiny. Times have not changed except that to fill a pram with Salmon would be a major exercise and be far too conspicuous, in addition any attempt to be seen to be carrying more than two fish in a day was illegal and the Bailiffs were extremely vigilant, especially as far as I was concerned and certain associates.

Ray was always looking for the opportunity to gain a little extra. The Deeds of the property said that I had to pay him ten shillings a year for crossing his property to reach some other land we owned, it also said that he had to contribute to sewerage costs, since his sewerage discharged into our system. He occasionally came into the pub, usually accompanied by visitors and not often by himself unless he wanted something. On this occasion he sidled up and asked if I had read the Deeds and I said that I had. He then said that he had to collect two ten shillings for two years crossing his land, I said that it was fine and gave him a pound note, which he put in his purse, I then pointed out that he had to contribute to emptying the sewerage chamber, to which he replied that no-one had ever charged him, I replied that I hadn’t seen that written in the deeds and he therefore owed us fifteen pounds, one sixth of the last years costs, he rushed home and brought the money back and never asked for ten shillings again for crossing his land.

Crossing the river bridge by the car park led to the footpath to Watersmeet, but directly opposite were three cottages, all were used as holiday cottages, one was owned by a solicitor and his wife from the Thames Valley who regularly appeared and participated in the Exmoor madness.

The other house near us was called Doone Cottage with its’ own fishing and river frontage and was owned by a London Property Company and used for holiday letting. It was run by a very strange character who spent his time on his visits to Exmoor driving us all mad. His first appearance was with his Boss and they gave the appearnce of being extremely wealthy, there was considerable talk of all their other properties which he managed and from our point of view, a considerable amount of good seasonal business would be generated with the holiday letting. His next visit was vastly different he spent all his time asking one or other of us how to get the cheapest or easiest item for some obscure aspect of Holiday Letting or driving me mad wanting to borrow something, the first few times were acceptable but after several visits it began to drive us all mad.  Because of his extreme penny pinching ways, we sent him on some glorious wild goose chases, this strange attitude was hard to understand since we all knew his Boss was a multi millionaire.

He had found it very hard to understand that it was impossible to get a TV picture at the bottom of the valley and spent hours juggling with different aerials. I had installed a system with an aerial at the top of the valley, which was capable of feeding all the houses in the hamlet with a superb picture. We made a point of not telling him that we had a highly sophisticated system with boosters  etc. and he therefore tried even harder to obtain a picture after we had shown him our TV Picture. I was reluctant to have him plug into the system because I had visions of  endless visitors complaining to me about the quality of the Television or picture, knowing the quality of equipment being installed by him.

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My rules for the plugging in to the aerial were various, resident pensioners free, working residents drinking in the pub five pounds per year, non drinking residents forty pounds of which we had none, letting houses twenty five pounds per year. This may seem a trifle expensive, but it cost a lot of money to install.

Our strange little man eventually realised after numerous complaints from his resident holiday makers about the TV quality, that we had a sophisticated system, he had also checked with the Reverend next door, who was not in the habit of pulling his leg, that the cost was very reasonable to plug in to. However when I told him twenty five pounds for a letting house he told me that it was too much and should be free, the same as the Reverend. I pointed out that they were charging a fortune for Doone Cottage and the residents were not retired. He then left saying he was not going to pay twenty five pounds and brought an aerial erector in who told him it would be cheaper to connect into our system.  He then came back to me grudgingly saying he would  pay the twenty five pounds, I said that he had upset me and it had now gone up to thirty five pounds, he then stormed off and talked to his aerial contractor again, eventually some weeks later returning saying he would pay the thirty five pounds. I was thoroughly enjoying myself and said it was now forty five pounds and would go up by ten pounds every time he dithered and mucked about. Much to our amazement he accepted, I contrived to keep a straight face and my Wife told me off for winding him up, I would like to stress it was not my intention to exploit anyone over the aerial, it’s just that some peoples attitude makes you kick back, as with toilet incidents.

The TV system was always a bone of contention when anyone new appeared, since they always assumed the service should be supplied free of charge, little realising that it had cost us several thousand pounds to install and we also supplied the electricity and maintenance.

When eventually Doone Cottage was sold and our strange little man disappeared, the new owner appeared and introduced himself asking about the aerial. I explained that as a working resident, drinking in the pub it would be five pounds a year, and jokingly added thirty five pounds a year if you do not use the pub, he very brusquely told me that he did not frequent pubs. He then left and proceeded to use the aerial without paying, it seemed ridiculous, all he had to do was call in for coffee or a soft drink occasionally and it would have cost him five pounds per year, the same as other non drinking residents. However I politely suggested that if he wished to use the aerial that he should subscribe, but he objected and I pulled the plug out. He then said that I couldn’t legally do this and I explained that there was no way that we would waste electricity and maintenance to provide him with a free service.

He then went through all the antics of  his predecessor, eventually bringing in the aerial erector who had put up our system. The aerial erector came to see me and told me that I couldn’t disconnect him because he was a JP in South Molton, I’m not sure whether being a JP or South Molton was supposed to impress me. My reaction was fairly predictable I raised the price by ten pounds, since he was obviously fairly wealthy and it would help subsidise the costs of the less well off. He like his predecessor eventually capitulated, it would appear that television must have been his main interest since nobody ever saw him to talk to, apart from paying his TV charges.

I received a phone call some eight years later asking if I knew who had been responsible for  erecting the TV aerial, since a recent purchaser of one of the cottages had laid claim to it and was trying to hold everyone to ransom, times do not change. I explained that it belonged to the Pub and that I had erected it, I then met the person who was trying to exercise his fictitious rights, plus arguing about car parking in front of his premises by Pub customers. Some people are determined to create acrimony, especially in a very small community, they seem to forget that life in the country, especially on Exmoor  is dependant on your neighbours. The offending newcomer was very put out when I told him that he was totally reliant on the Pub for his TV picture and it’s a long Winter reading books. Unfortunately his acrimony had gone too far and his loss of face caused him to depart fairly quickly much to everyone’s relief.  I must admit that I had forgotten to include the aerial on the deeds before I sold it.

The arguments over car parking at Rockford have been raging ever since motor vehicles came into the valley. I had found chains, painted beer barrels and signs saying, “Parking for Pub Customers only,” left in the beer store by previous owners. Tom Chester who owned the shop opposite had a small car park and used to erect a chain when he was closed. I suggested it would be mutually beneficial if we allowed parking on both car parks to customers of both establishments, since our trading times were in principal different, he agreed , we also directed non customers further up the road to another park where they were charged by the day. This worked extremely well apart from the Boss men of the National Trust, the ordinary workers with the NT always asked if it was convenient to park, but two specific gentlemen from their Head Office always insisted on leaving two cars all day, I eventually caught up with them, pointing out that it was for Pub customers, they replied that they were going to have lunch in the Pub but it wasn’t my pub it was  the one further up the river and they were walking  there and there was nothing I could do about it. Since I was unable to win this argument without towing their cars away at vast cost, I parked my car in the NT Staff car park at Watersmeet by the river when I went fishing, needless to say I had a letter from the NT threatening me with leagal action for illegal parking , I replied pointing out that they had no qualms about using my car park and therefore it was only fair that I should be able to use theirs, I heard no more, their car park saved me a long walk when I was fishing.

One of the main attractions of a country pub in a tourist area are the amount of people that return every year, usually at exactly the same time. Some of them love to be recognised and feel that they are really visiting locals, even though they live hundreds of miles away.

The whole of the life cycle of Exmoor can be defined by  regular visits of these same people, the Fliers from Biggin Hill, the London Taxi Drivers, the HTV crew, the Ad Men from London, the Car Workers from Land Rover, the Austin 7 Club etc. Each group seemed to create a separate range of funny events and stories.

The majority came down to Exmoor for the riding, not serious riding, but fun riding on the moor, which eventually ended up in one or other of the pubs. The ponies, when required would find the quickest way back home across the moor, totally unaided, carrying their exhausted and frequently lubricated cargoes.

On arrival at Brendon Manor, being the nearest stable to the pub, Dudley would dispense more whisky and milk, until opening time, when they would come down the hill and fall into the pub. How Dudley ever made a profit with the amount of whisky he dispensed free of charge I will never know.
One of these groups came from Camberley, organised by a very dapper, good looking character who never seemed to have a wife. Until one day when she came with him, she looked considerably older than him, but wasn’t, she was fairly large with a strange sing song voice and could on first appearances be described as bovine. In fact when we had all got over the shock of seeing two people who were apparently so totally different, she was extremely nice and a lot of fun, in spite of this dreadful voice, she also always seemed to be talking, which her husband readily confirmed.

He explained that her jaw had to be wired up for six weeks, because of some mishap and he said “It was sheer bliss ,” and possibly accounted for the strange voice.

On a normal after hours drinking session, she was explaining that her fifteen year old son, who looked like his father, was being a trifle troublesome and she decided to check his bedroom for signs of his possible activities, whatever they were. She eventually found a piece of paper with “If you want Sex ring Camberley ??????”, she was absolutely horrified and after a couple of days plucked up courage to ask him, visuallising her fifteen year old associating with known Call Girls etc. He said “Oh that’s nothing I was going to give it to Dad.”

Following this little tale she left for the “Loo” using the old one at the back of the pub. We carried on drinking and after about an hour someone realised that she had not returned, she had by this stage had a considerable amount to drink. I rushed to the “Loo” and found her in an alcoholic distressed state. She had sat down rather heavily on the loo seat which had cracked pinching her bottom, she had then proceeded to stamp on the floor to attract attention and pushed her foot through the floor, trapping her foot. The floor was never very good and suffered from rot any way. We decided that her husband was the best one to extricate her from this chaos, which he did with howls of laughter.

She emerged and in her funny voice said “It was a very nasty experience.” Which became the pass word for anyone using that “Loo,” in future.
One very dismal evening at the end of the Winter, three very sombre characters appeared looking for food, drink and accommodation.

We arranged all this for them and as the evening became more liquid they explained that they were on their way to Cornwall to collect the body of a friend who had died. They had borrowed a Hearse and felt that their recently departed friend would appreciate them having some liquid refreshment on their way to collect him. The Hearse was parked in the car park, causing a certain amount of reverence by entering customers, and discreet enquiries as to whether we may have had suffered a recent loss.

By this stage a full blown practice Wake was in progress, needless to say a large proportion of locals appeared and a heavy night ensued. The Hearse departed in the morning a little later than scheduled and we all waved good bye.

It made an interesting discussion point during the day and at about seven o’clock in the evening the Hearse reappeared complete with coffin, much to our amazement. The three sombre character climbed out and said that they thought it only fair to bring their friend back since they had enjoyed themselves so much the night before.

I had visions of the coffin being propped up in the corner of the bar with a pervading smell of dead bodies and discreetly asked them about their friend. They told me he would be fine in the car park since he was unable to drink, so they left him there for the night and another party ensued. I kept checking the car park expecting something to happen to the Hearse or coffin, visualising being struck off as a Landlord for allowing bodies to be left in the car park unattended. It was bitterly cold that night, which was probably a good thing for the dead friend.

The three sombre characters drove off again the next day, later than their schedule and we never saw them again, whether there was a body I will never know, but it was certainly a new approach to a country pub crawl.

Beer Pump Handles
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