A pub to be proud of: The Royal Oak, North Wales

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Related tags: Royal oak, Wales, Car boot sale, Ann summers

When a family in the village of Hendre, near Mold in Flintshire, North Wales, saw their house burn down, a £500 donation from the local pub gave...

When a family in the village of Hendre, near Mold in Flintshire, North Wales, saw their house burn down, a £500 donation from the local pub gave them a welcome lift.

It was a generous gift from licensee John Les Tomos and the locals at the Royal Oak, a one-room freehouse. But it was just the latest of countless donations, amounting to more than £10,000, that the pub has made to the community over the past eight years.

The pub's status in the village has helped the business prosper while others, as well as the local shop and post office, have been forced to close.

"Since I took over this pub in 1997 I've seen three pubs within three miles of here close permanently," says John. "Our sales were up six per cent last year."

The reason for the Royal Oak's success is quite straightforward, continues John. "The secret of any rural pub is that you have to be a big part of the community. You need to get the local people on your side.

"Some people try and run a rural pub in the same way they would run a town-centre pub but that doesn't always work."

Charity events have included a regular organ night, race nights and even an Ann Summers Party, but the main weekly fundraiser at the pub is the Sunday Night Quiz.

"We sell raffle tickets in the middle of it, with all the money going to our local community fund. We've given £500 to the local school, money to local pensioners and some to a number of local families with problems."

The Royal Oak's status in the community is further strengthened by its sponsorship of the local bowls team. "It costs us £100 a year - less than £2 a week - and we get a real return when it plays locally as the players always end up here," says John.

"We also have another two quiz teams and a pool team, while the pub has close links with local young farmers' groups." Customers contribute to the pub in other ways too, with regulars often adding mugs to the Royal Oak's 612-strong display. "We had three customers who ran the New York marathon recently and they each brought a mug back," says John. "A lady from Washington sent us a special FBI mug, as her husband works for the FBI. Customers at car boot sales often see particular mugs and get them for the pub."

Now the pub has been granted extended opening, to 12.30am Sunday to Thursday, 1.30am Friday and 2.30am Saturday - and it is exactly the sort of pub, and community, which will benefit from the opportunity. "It's so I've got the option to give my customers the chance to leave when they want to,"says John.

The Royal Oak is a pub to be proud of indeed. "I'm proud of the place and my customers are," he adds. "They are very welcoming when there are strangers in, they talk to them. We have high standards of behaviour and language so that all ages feel safe."

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