My Pub: the South Causey Inn, Stanley, Co Durham

By Phil Mellows

- Last updated on GMT

Changing faces: the South Causey Inn started life as a family-owned riding school
Changing faces: the South Causey Inn started life as a family-owned riding school

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Susan Moiser and her family are celebrating their 10th year at the South Causey Inn on the outskirts of Stanley, Co Durham, a decade in which the business has been transformed from a pub attached to a riding school to one of the north-east’s most popular wedding venues (not forgetting the gin distillery, the hot-tubs, the double-decker bus letting room and the fancy dress dog walks). Phil Mellows reports.

The pub

The site was originally a 100-acre farm which was bought by the family in 1976 and developed as an equestrian centre. The farmhouse became the South Causey Inn in 1990. When my husband Philip and I took over the business in 2007 we built the restaurant and started hosting weddings and other functions.

A few years ago we converted the former stable block into a wedding venue extension, the Durham Suite, and this March we opened a second, purpose-built venue, the Old Barn, with an investment of around £1m.

We still have some pigs and horses but the riding school has closed. It used to be a 24-hour business but we only do 14-hour days now.

The trade

Stanley is an old mining village and there’s not a lot of money around here. Beamish Museum, the famous open-air museum, is nearby and brings people in, but that’s not enough to keep us going. We have to do more.

The pub is very much about families. We attract walkers and cyclists, and we have lots of birthday parties and wedding anniversaries. The rooms attract guests from all over the world, most recently from Dubai, Canada and Australia.

But we feel we’re very much a part of the local community too, and although we’re a bit more expensive than other pubs we want locals to see us as the place for a special occasion.

We went dog-friendly 18 months ago and it’s been great. We have a dog walking club on the first Saturday of the month, when people come back here afterwards for a coffee and bacon sandwich. We’ll even provide the dog if you don’t have your own. We had a fancy dress dog walk in May.

Fact file

Pub:​ South Causey Inn

Address:​ Stanley, Co Durham

Tenure: ​Freehold

Licensees: ​Susan and Philip Moiser

Staff: ​110, 70 full-time

Letting rooms: ​37

Annual turnover: ​c£4m

GPs: ​68% to 70% on the bar, 66% to 68% for food

Best-selling beers: ​Foster’s, Birra Moretti

When it comes to marketing, social media has been an amazing tool for us. One post can attract hundreds of comments and thousands of likes.

The team

Staff numbers have grown from 24 when we started to 110, with 70 of them full-time. They are all managed by myself and the children and are offered NVQ-based training. We can train chefs from scratch. It’s possible for people to move around through all the different sections of the business and find a job they can warm to.

The food

We cook hundreds of meals every day and can serve 600 to 800 lunches on a Sunday. The menu is very traditional. Mince and dumpling has always been our biggest seller. Mondays and Tuesday are steak nights and we recently introduced a tapas menu.

Afternoon teas have been phenomenal. We can have 100 sitting down to tea on Saturdays, and we’ve done a couple of Ritz-style teas, with a pianist and singer for £19.95 a head, which last time pulled in more than 200.

The drink

Last year we opened our own distillery on site where we are making our own gin, called Rip after our bulldog. The juniper comes from trees grown in our own herb garden. It’s been really popular and given us a point of difference in a growing market for gins.

Heineken UK is our main beer supplier and Foster’s and Birra Moretti are huge sellers. We regularly serve four cask ales from local brewers – in the wedding venues now as well as the pub – and Wylam Brewery in Newcastle brews and bottles our own brand of pale ale.

Wine and Prosecco are very important, of course. Our main suppliers are Lanchester Wines and Greencroft Bottling, a local company in Stanley which sources wines from all over
the world.

Cocktails continue to be as popular as ever, and fruit ciders are selling well too.

The weddings

The publicans

The riding school was our family business, but we always wanted to develop the food and functions side. Our four children – Katy, Frances, Harriet and Douglas – all work in the business now, and we manage it between us.

Philip does the designs and purchases all the bric-a-brac. There’s no logic to it. It’s in a style I think they call ‘eclectic’.

Weddings have been fantastic for us. We’ll do 300 this year and they bring in residents for the rooms. It can get a little crazy. People choose quite random themes and it can be anything from Star Wars to Lego – but we’ll do anything they want.

The two venues we have now are run independently and have their own management and staff. They each have a bar area and a chapel for the ceremony, and we can be flexible on numbers.

The Durham Suite can cater for 100 wedding guests, and 200 for the evening reception. The Old Barn is a new purpose-built venue in the former riding school and can host up to 175 guests, 275 in the evening. It has its own car park and gardens.

We’ve also started doing funerals and have set aside ashes-scattering areas in the gardens. It’s a great honour that people choose us for that – and it’s certainly something I never thought we would be doing!

The accommodation

There were only 16 rooms when we started. Now there are 37. The latest are 13 rooms we’ve built around a courtyard.

A lot of the rooms are themed, from the French Boudoir to Captain Cook’s Cabin and the Tree House, and have their own private outdoor hot-tub. Eighteen months ago we acquired a 1960s double-decker London bus which we parked in the grounds and converted into a unique room with a log-burning stove, hot-tub and bath with a waterproof TV screen.

We offer various packages up to the Full Monty, which includes cocktails, canapes and an hour-long full-body massage.

The future

On the menu

■ Prawn cocktail £6.95

■ Corned beef and potato bites with HP sauce £6.95

■ Mince & dumpling with boiled potatoes and veg £10.95

■ Scampi & chips £9.95

■ Giant Yorkshire pudding filled with pork & leek sausages, mash and veg £10.95

■ Mixed grill, with steak, gammon, pork chop, lamb chop, sausage, black pudding, liver and fried egg £21.95

■ Causey Black Forest pudding £6.95

■ Homemade sticky toffee pudding £6.45

It’s been a massive year for us – in the past nine months we’ve added rooms and an entire wedding venue, but the development will go on. Next we want to refurbish the original farmhouse bedrooms, and we have a brewkit ready to make our own beer as we want to start brewing. In our 10th year we have also set ourselves the target of raising £10,000 for 10 local charities. 

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