Kerry and Nigel Williams may have made a huge success of their Redditch bar and bistro, but can they do the same nearby at the rundown pub that they have just signed a lease on. Ewan Turney reports
The challenge for Kerry Williams and husband Nigel is somewhat out of the ordinary having taken on another pub close to their successful freehouse, how do they make it significantly different?
The couple have been at the helm of Steps Bar & Bistro, their first foray into the trade, for three years now, and life and profit margins are extremely good.
To give a brief background, Steps, previously Brodies, was a dated theme bar, cluttered with unusual items such as a bath, coffin and a toilet in the bar area. A major refurbishment and a lot of hard work later and the Williams had transformed Brodies into Steps and a turnover of £2,000 per week to well in excess of £10,000. 'We can sometimes take £5,000 in a night, says Kerry.
Steps is a stylish, trendy bar with soul and Motown music at its heart. Every Saturday there is a live band playing music from the '60s, '70s or '80s. There is a quiz on Thursdays and a disco on Sunday evenings to ensure the weekend finishes with a bang. In terms of food, there is a range of freshly-prepared and home-cooked meals. With parties travelling to the venue from Birmingham and Coventry, the pub is built on a solid reputation for quality and excellence. So, why buy the rundown pub nearby?
'We took it on because it was next door and we didn't want someone coming in and competing with us and stealing our business and our market, she says. 'You never know, especially with strangers coming in.
They took on the Punch lease on 14 June. 'The pub was absolutely on its backside. It is a massive building on three floors but the top two were almost derelict, such was the state it had been left in. It was infested with pigeons and it took Rentokil four days to get rid of them all. It took over a gallon of pipe cleaner to clean the pipes thoroughly. The walls are also turquoise, so it is so dark in there.
Although they cannot rip the building apart, they have made it clean and fresh and reopened. Punch's design team is on the case and is willing to spend around £1/2m on a refurbishment. Kerry says the pubco is excited by the prospects for the White Hart, given the couple's success at Steps. There is the possibility of turning one part of the building's outhouses into an Italian restaurant. Turnover is already up to £3,000 a week from virtually zero.
'I suppose we want the White Hart to be more of a community pub for the local people like it used to be, says Kerry. 'We want to put on a flower show and hold charity auctions. We have just started a pool league and want to get a darts team going. There is a bowling green at the back.
She has also started a petition to get the local Morris dancers back to the pub. The group still call themselves the White Hart Morris dancers despite now being based away from the pub in Alcester.
Until the restaurant is built, bar snacks will be served in the evening and there is the possibility of serving breakfast from 7am to 11am.
The White Hart is two minutes' walk from Steps. Kerry doesn't want either pub to take business from the other. She wants the two to complement each other and feels a good old-fashioned community pub is the way to go. But its reputation needs to be restored. Kerry wants to make it the people's local the hub of the community once more.
The White Hart, Redditch, Worcestershire
Licensees: Kerry and Nigel Williams
Previous trade experience: Three years
Other pubs: Steps Bar & Bistro freehouse, Redditch
White Hart turnover: £3,000 per week
Drinks: Strongbow, Woodpecker, Carling, Worthington's, Tetleys, Guinness, Stella Artois, two guest ales, single-serve red and white house wines
More than 65% of people who have heard of J2O will try the product, versus 60% for Diet Coke, 59% for Red Bull and 37% for Appletiser *
l J2O is the biggest packaged soft drink, worth £150m and accounts for 43% of all juice sold in the on-premise **
* Millward Brown OP Tracker, Mar '05
** ACNielsen MAT, Mar '05