The blaze, at the Three Lions in Farncombe, Surrey, happened just 13 days after the two new tenants, Sarah and Graham Firth, had opened the doors.
They had taken over the pub in January 2014 after it had been closed for five months - and started out with what they described as two 'brilliant' weeks, in which they were becoming renowned for live music.
But the fire changed all of that. It destroyed the kitchen, the flat above and a third of the bar area. As a result of the blaze, they had to move out of the upstairs flat for three months, and the damaged bar area was closed for a lengthy 10 weeks.
But the two tenants, Sarah and Graham Firth were determined to turn the fortune's of the pub around. Incredibly, and testament to their determination to make the pub a success - something which was recognised in their recent award by their pubco, Shepherd Neame - they reopened the next day.
“We just had the clothes we were wearing. It was terrible. If it wasn’t burnt, it had smoke damage,” Sarah told the PMA. “I don’t think anyone could quite believe it. It
was frustrating and very challenging.”
But the pub could not serve food and revenue took a “dive”.
“The pub lost so much capacity, serving food wasn’t worth it.” She added.
But she said they were “determined” to persevere and never considered giving up on their new profession.
“I absolutely love the pub trade. The first two weeks were incredibly busy so we knew we could get back to that. You’ve got to get on with it,” Sarah said.
“But some people didn’t realise we had reopened. It took a while for us to re-establish ourselves.”
Since renovating the pub, business is now thriving.
The pub is top of the local ratings on TripAdvisor - currently averaging 4.5 out of 5 and with a collection of excellent reviews - and it hosts an event almost every night of the week.
A quick perusal of its listing on the site reveals that Sarah Firth also responds to all of the reviews, taking on-board the criticisms as well as thanking the good reviews - illustrating the attention to detail that has seen the pub become award-winning.
Firth said the pub was now fully established as part of the community.