A couple buy their dream village pub.
Mark Palmer, 42, and Kevin Rees, 59 have been married for four years and live in Ironbridge, Shropshire. They are moving more than 200 miles north to buy a village pub which closed before lockdown.
“It was just a spur of the moment thing,” said Mark. “Our friends have been going on holiday to Bassenthwaite in the Lake District for the last 19 years and we’ve been with them a couple of times. “The last time, we went out on our own to look around the area and found this pub for sale next to a caravan site.”
The pub and restaurant, formerly known as The Barn Bistro, is one of two watering holes serving the tiny village of Gilcrux, which has a population of fewer than 300 people.
Its former owner, who still lives in the village, closed the pub two years ago just before the first Covid lockdown when the landlord who’d been working behind the bar for a decade left to take on the pub across the road.
The couple jumped at the chance to re-open the inn, despite them having little experience as licensees. Mark said: “Neither of us has ever run a pub before but when the owner showed us around and we really saw the potential there. It has got planning permission to be turned into two houses but we said that we really wanted to re-open it as a pub - if we could get the finance - and agreed to buy it there and then.”
However, Mark admitted that finding financial backing for their new venture had been a struggle with a shortage of lenders willing to support their entrepreneurial vision, particularly after the impact of Covid on the hospitality industry.
Luckily, a long-standing friend and financial adviser put them in touch with a mortgage broker who introduced them to specialist lender Together.
After considering Mark and Kevin’s business plans, the finance company agreed a £150,000 commercial mortgage over a 25-year term. And, following negotiations with the owner, they agreed to buy the pub for the knockdown price of £320,000, using their own savings to make up the difference.
Mark, who currently works as a council housing officer, said he and Kevin have now re-named the pub The Barn Inn and were busy refurbishing the interior with a view to opening it later this month (February). They are turning the upstairs accommodation into a B&B while they live in a three-bedroom static caravan on the campsite behind the pub.
The inn will re-open as a “traditional local”, said new landlord Mark, with ales, wines, cocktails and home-cooked food. Kevin has given up his job as a delivery driver to work in the pub full-time and a friend with many years of experience in the licence trade will join them for the first six months to support them in launching their new venture.
Mark added: “We’ve had some really great support from the village on social media and the location is fantastic. There are local fishing and golf clubs, a campsite on our doorstep, the Lakes five miles away and the beach seven miles away.
“We’re expecting it to be challenging for the first year as we find our feet, so we are a little bit nervous but we’re also excited about the future.”