Meet the GBPA nominees: Best Newcomer sponsored by Punch Taverns

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at the Hilton on Park lane on 7 September
Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at the Hilton on Park lane on 7 September
Next up in our previews of the finalists at this year’s John Smiths Great British Pub Awards is the category of Best Newcomer, sponsored by Punch Taverns. 

This category seeks to recognise new licensees that have made the greatest impact since entering the trade after January 2014.

The Copper Mine, Crook, County Durham 

Working as a property developer meant that licensee Anne Binks knew what to look for when she decided to take the plunge into running a pub.

Initially looking at development opportunities for land around the pub, Anne also saw the possibility of creating a pub catering for people looking for good quality food in great surroundings. She jumped at the chance to take on the Copper Mine in Durham, and it’s fair to say she’s created something of a gold mine! 

Despite having no previous experience of working in the hospitality sector, Anne has managed to bring her impressive business skills to bear and the pub is now taking in a day what it once took in a week.

The pub has proven so popular, plans are now under way to extend the kitchen in order to cope with the growing demand.

The Duke of Wellington, Twyford

 Paul Williams found himself bitten by the hospitality bug after creating and hosting a festival event at his local pub.

When the existing operators at the Duke of Wellington announced plans to retire, Paul and his partner Karen, a professional singer and comic, jumped at the chance to take on the business.

Ditching his career in IT, Paul has gone on to embrace the opportunity of running the pub in Twyford, Berkshire, and has seen trade increase by more than 40% in the 10 months since taking over. 

Trade has been boosted by the introduction of a wide range of events, rangingfrom live music, comedy nights, bingo and open mic nights.

Having grown up in the village, the couple were more than familiar with the business, but saw a real opportunity to take it forward, bringing in a younger customer base and expanding the potential by creating more useable outside space.

The Firehouse, Curry Rivel, Somerset

Having grown up in the area and with a family background in pubs, when the Old Forge in Curry Rivel, Somerset, came up for grabs Kate Macey and her family seized the opportunity.

Renaming the business the Firehouse, Katie was able to bring her studies in international hospitality management to bear, and with other family members pitching in – husband running the bar, dad and brother in charge of building, while mum runs the accounts – the business has proven a huge hit with the local community. 

From opening the doors in May 2016, it’s been non-stop since and the Firehouse has had to increase the number of covers to try to keep up with demand, averaging around 120 each night on weekends.

A successful early bird offer has also boosted trade, and a strong entertainment offer, from live music to pub quizzes and karaoke, has gone down well.

 The King & Queen, Wendover, Buckinghamshire

Switching from running record shops in the UK and abroad to stepping behind the bar has proven a great move for Pete Donne. Having found himself mired behind a desk, and missing the cut and thrust of customer interaction, Pete took over the operations of the King & Queen in Wendover, Buckinghamshire.

Having been born in the village, he knew the pub well, and despite having no experience in the hospitality trade, was able to apply his retail and customer service skills to great effect, taking the pub from the brink of struggling to a healthy and viable operation, doubling turnover in little more than 12 months. 

Outside endorsement has followed, with the business taking the title of Best Community Pub in the Aylesbury Vale Awards in its first year.

An emphasis on premium spirit products, along with a strong range of cask and craft ales, many from local brewers and producers, has gone down well with customers.

The Lamb, Eastcombe, Gloucestershire

While many pubs are starting to take over the running of the local post office, for this operator it was a case of moving from the post office into the local pub.

Having run an award-winning post office and store in Sussex for 10 years, Jonathan Armstrong was looking for a new challenge. 

After seeing more than 150 different pubs, he eventually settled on the Lamb in Eastcombe, Gloucestershire. Taking over just over 12 months ago, the team quickly transformed the business’s fortunes, growing the wet trade by 32% in the first few months. That continues to grow and food sales have also more than doubled over the same period.

Jonathan has invested a lot of time into ensuring the pub has become a central part of the surrounding community, running a library from the pub and attracting a diverse mix of customers.

Tickets for The Great British Pub Awards can be bought by phoning 01293 846508. For more information about the event visit its dedicated website​. 

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