My Pub: The Shack 68, Twickenham

By Liam Coleman

- Last updated on GMT

The Shack 68: Former England and Harlequins back Ugo Monye decided to turn his hand to running a pub a stone’s throw from Twickenham Stadium
The Shack 68: Former England and Harlequins back Ugo Monye decided to turn his hand to running a pub a stone’s throw from Twickenham Stadium

Related tags: World cup, England national rugby union team

After retiring from rugby union, former England and Harlequins back Ugo Monye decided to turn his hand to running a pub a stone’s throw from Twickenham Stadium. He and business partner Adam Saword discuss swapping rucks for the ruckus of running a pub.

The pub

Ugo Monye (UM):​ I knew this site before we got involved about three years ago and it was a bit of a mess.

Adam Saword (AS): ​It didn’t have any identity and hadn’t traded for a few months, which was a challenge. Many Harlequins fans have been coming to the area for many years and would never have stepped through the door. But we now feel that we’ve been here long enough to put our own stamp on things and I think people now trust us.

The location

AS: ​Twickenham is a good town that is obviously very big on rugby. We are fortunate in that we’re right next to the station so in the scale of how bars fill in the area, they fill from us and the Cabbage Patch, the Fuller’s pub across the road, before they filter through the Twickenham pubs further from the station.

On days that England are playing at Twickenham, thousands of people pour out of the station pretty much onto our doorstep. That said, we like to think we put a little bit more effort in than just opening the doors.

We are very fortunate in that we have a good relationship with the building next door so we are effectively able to use the bit of land out the front, which we turn into an outdoor bar.

The licensee

UM:​ I met Adam the summer before the 2015 Rugby World Cup just after I’d retired and it looked like a great way to keep me out of trouble. We had a good chat and there was huge excitement around the World Cup so we saw it as a brilliant opportunity for me to get involved.

I was quite excited by what I saw when I checked it out. The place had a really good feel about it and it’s something that I bought into. For all those reasons, as well as liking the guys involved, it made sense to get in-volved with something that is fresh, positive and very different.

AS:​ I used to own the Grand Union group with my best friend from school, Adam Marshall. I sold my shares in that in 2013.

Owning a bar in Twickenham has been a rugby education for me. I was the fan that got behind big games, but since opening the site, I have started to learn a little bit more about the whole thing. Having someone like Ugo, who knows everything there is to know about rugby, has been an education on that side of things.

The offer

AS:​ We have recently changed the site to make it more bar-led. In January of this year, we changed our focus to be a bar with live music, rather than a restaurant with entertainment. It seemed like a much easier extension for what we do when there are matches on at Twicken-ham Stadium or The Stoop (Harlequins’ ground). On those match days, we are very much an entertainment bar.

That said, people do come in to eat. We offer corporate dining in the upstairs of the bar, barbecues at the front of the bar and a barbecue in the marquee at the back so we like to think that we have pretty much all bases covered.

Half of our annual trade comes from the 15 match days in Twickenham. That means, on the other 350 days, you have to work really hard to maintain a good trade. Twickenham is not Clapham and so we don’t get a major after-work crowd.

We have Twickenham Jam on a Sunday night; that is an established Twickenham live music night that we managed to get in mid-late 2016. We also have music on every night except Monday and Tuesday; those are the events that we promote and organise ourselves.

Because we are tied on beers, there is not much we can do to innovate on that, despite having a decent range of beers. For that reason, we do what we can to encourage people towards our cocktails offer; we have a selection of cocktails that are always two for £10, and those sell well.

With our location, we are naturally quite big on showing the sport and so we have 12 to 15 TVs throughout the site. On match days, we often show reruns of the match that took place at Twickenham or The Stoop.

On top of that, we set up the upstairs for corporate hospitality for 100 people on match days, which oversees the atmosphere that is building outside, ahead of the match. I was born in nearby Teddington so I knew that we were never going to compete with the Cabbage Patch as a pub because they do what they do fantastically well. We have put ourselves in a different market.

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The customers

UM:​ During the World Cup, we found ourselves bringing back the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, John Inverdale and Clive Woodward to have some food and drinks in the upstairs dining area because it is somewhere they could take in the post-game atmosphere while still relaxing.

AS:​ We have become known for not only corporate hospitality, but also everyday hospitality. We have people who want to sit down and eat, but likewise we have people that just want to come in, drink, have some beers and watch the sport.

Twickenham is a loyal town to Harlequins and England’s rugby team. They are a little bit fickle so they will come in to watch rugby when Harlequins or England are playing, but we are now trying to build our trade when neither of those sides are playing. Before we took this site on, we thought that people would be rugby mad for everything, but it doesn’t quite work out like that.

The memories

UM: ​There have been some great memories. After Australia v Scotland in the quarter finals of the 2015 World Cup, we were absolutely packed out and had a live band on.

Suddenly we found Brian McFadden from Westlife on stage singing karaoke with former England international Mike Tindall. To have people like that come here and create that extra buzz is so unexpected, but creates a fantastic vibe and is absolutely great.

AS:​ There were two nights at the World Cup that I remember best. There was that night with Brian McFadden but, on another night, ex-Scotland international Rory Lawson sang I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers on stage.

I have worked in the trade for a few years and I don’t think I have ever seen somewhere bounce like when that happened.

Future plans

UM:​ We are looking at lots of different opportunities to push the Shack out there. We have spoken about doing a pop-up at Bournemouth 7s, the biggest rugby festival there is in the calendar year.

AS:​ That said, I don’t think we could ever possibly find a site quite like this, where it is so big on event days and yet still has the local character that comes from being in a town centre.

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