'It was a risk' - Staff who took over pub during pandemic toast success
- Credit: Danielle Booden
Taking on a pub in the middle of a pandemic may not seem the best business decision.
But that is exactly the challenge that Sharon Carr and Helen Harris took on when they took the reins of The Avenue pub in Great Yarmouth in May, with the blessing of outgoing landlords Colin Oldham and Jo Fuller.
Mrs Carr had been a bar manager at the Beatty Road pub since 2016 and Ms Harris had been a barmaid since 2018, having both worked at town centre pub Peggotty's previously.
The friends admit they had reservations about taking over The Avenue amid the Covid crisis, but their expertise in knowing what makes a pub tick is the key to their success.
Tuesday saw the first day of the latest meeting at Yarmouth racecourse and there was a hive of activity as horse racing enthusiasts took over the pub before and after the meet as they mingled with locals.
Reflecting on a hectic past four months Mrs Carr, 50, said: "It's gone better than we expected. We have loyal customers and it was always a good pub.
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"When we talked about taking it over we did not know if the pub would open or be locked down. It was a risk, I suppose.
"But we have a good bunch of locals and you have to know what they want to do well."
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Ms Harris said that coming in to take over the pub with their own money and without any debts did have an advantage in the current climate.
One challenge had been table service which meant more staff costs, although Ms Harris joked that the customers had got to used to not going to the bar.
The friends have eight staff, including a chef, and also pride themselves on having locally sourced food for their kitchen and a thriving darts and pool scene.
Summing up the ethos of the pub, Ms Harris said: "You have to know what the customer wants. Unhappy customers won't put money in your tills."
Future plans for the pub include a cocktail menu, and music and pub quiz nights.
Seal of approval for The Avenue
There was a flurry of activity between 11am and 1pm as horse racing fans gathered on Tuesday to enjoy a pint, food and study the form before the first day of a three meet.
After the mayhem died down we talked to two regulars who approved of the new hands at the helm of the pub.
Dean McCorkindale, 49, said: "It is just nice pub, I have been coming here for years. Sharon and Helen are doing a great job. A lot of people are coming in from town now because it is a great pub.
"Its just a lovely pub."
Mike Mitchell, 56, had been bar manager of Peggotty's and had worked with Mrs Carr and Ms Harris.
He said: They are great people and have great staff. They are both natural at the job. They are both people persons. They are doing a brilliant job."