Bought on a whim almost two decades ago, the Longboat Inn in Penzance has since been transformed by licensee Martyn Cripps, alongside his wife Lynda, into a multifaceted business for visitors to the Cornish coast.
Facts 'n' stats
- Name: The Longboat Inn
- Address: Market Jew St, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 2HZ
- Tenure: Star Pubs & Bars leasehold (three-year rolling lease)
- Founded: 1850
- Licensees: Martyn and Lynda Cripps
- Staffing: Winter – 12 to 15 staff, Summer – 20 to 25 staff
- Annual turnover: £700,000
The pub is situated in an old building that is around 250 to 300 years old. It was founded in 1850, as a temperance hotel and posting house, but before that it was a tannery, with the tanning pit situated opposite where the railway station now is. The pub is right in Penzance, which is on the south-west Cornish coast, with access to lots of lovely things happening in Cornwall.
We have benefited from the Poldark effect. The series has showcased Cornwall to the nation, and Penzance is a fantastic central location for visiting the hot spots. The poor exchange rate and security fears are also encouraging many to holiday closer to home. Trade is also less seasonal. People love the slower way of life here and are taking more mini-breaks throughout the year.
The pub is traditional, though we make sure we cater for modern needs. We are always updating to keep it within the 21st century.
We have two restaurants, an internet café, a cinema, Mediterranean beer garden and 18 en-suite rooms.
Lynda and I have been in pubs most of our lives. We’ve been together 25 years ourselves and we’ve both been in the industry all our lives. We have had other businesses but we have always come back to this.
Funnily enough, I used to work at the Longboat behind the bar years and years ago, before we took it on, and Lynda used to be a glass collector here. That’s how we knew the pub. We’ve been here 18 years, this is our 19th. When it came up to lease at the time, we knew about it but we didn’t do anything about it. Then we were driving out of town one day and Linda saw the ‘to let’ sign in the wing mirror and said ‘why don’t we go for that?’. So it was just on a whim we did it – 19 years later and we’re still here.
It’s been hard graft, but it has been good. You have to put a lot of hard work in to get anything out of it. You’re always having to evolve and do different things.
It was hard when we started, we took over a pub we felt was a bit rundown – possibly due to the reason that it was in the hands of big companies transferring across and the managers weren’t exactly enthusiastic about it. When we took it on some of elements were not amazing but some were OK.
The pub we bought had five rooms, which were sort of up and running. Nine rooms were an absolute mess, with years and years’ worth of rubbish in them. Our priority in 2000 was to get
all the rooms up and running because we recognised it would be a good income. The first five rooms had en-suites but the other rooms had bathrooms that were communal.
We spent a lot of money doing it up ourselves and we did have to spend a lot of time and effort to bring it up to a standard where we could sell all the rooms – and we did.
Trade was more seasonal when we started almost two decades ago. I also think that things happen in waves. One minute the trade is seasonal and that’s it, one minute it isn’t and the season goes on longer. The season starts earlier now and so we’re very lucky to be here. I think Cornwall is lucky now, we’re very much in an early season that also goes on a lot later.
The dynamic is very good. We have a manager Ryan who has been with us since we’ve been here, not always as the manager because he was 12 when he started with us! He did little bits and pieces for us, and we knew his family very well, and he came into this industry with us, starting pot washing. He went on from there. In the past few years, Ryan has managed the day-to-day running.
It’s not just one business, it’s not just the bar, it’s not just the kitchen, and it’s not just the rooms, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. We look after behind the scenes. I train all the people in the kitchen to cook. It works well. Most of our staff have been with us for more than 10 years, which isn’t bad going.
We do have seasonal staff who come in and out, there’s a lot at college or university. They know what we want, they know what our expectations are. We have trained them with the idea that customer service is always the priority.
We’re proud of our ales in particular, because we do a lot of Cornish ales now. Our real ales are really good. We have a good beer range, a good range of draft products, as well as soft drinks, wines, and spirits. Locally-sourced spirits, including gins and whiskies, are very popular. We serve the Cornish Mead Company mead, which has different added flavours to the traditional Cornish mead base.
We balance it with other stuff as well. We do a good tea and coffee range, we’re good for that. The pub is opposite Penzance station, so we have been selling barista-style coffee to take away for 17 years, ahead of that general trend.
We have four draft lagers and four draft ciders. We deal through the brewery, which gives us a good range of local products and a chance for people to taste local ales.
On the menu
- Longboat sizzler: king prawns, onions and peppers sizzling in home-made piri piri, barbecue or teriyaki sauce, served with hand-cut chips or basmati rice – £14.95
- Cornish horseshoe gammon steak, served with a choice of free range eggs or pineapple with peas and chips – £12.95
- Chicken breast, served with grilled bacon and melted Cornish cheddar with chips or new potatoes and vegetables or salad – £11.95
- Home-made Newlyn crab cakes, served with dressed salad leaves and homemade chilli jam – £7.45
- Home-breaded Cornish brie, with dressed salad leaves and cranberry sauce – £5.95
- Cornish cream tea: home-made scones, jam, Cornish clotted cream, pot of tea or Americano coffee – £5.95
We’re not a gastropub. We know our market, we know where we are in the market. It’s good pub food. We make all the specials here. We do a lot of home-made food. We don’t buy the burgers in, we make them ourselves. All our meats are Cornish and all our produce is local, when we can get it. We do chillies, lasagnes, speciality fish dishes, salads and sizzlers, which go down a storm.
Our menus fully change once every couple of years. But we always add and take away. We don’t leave a menu in there and think ‘that’s it, we’re not going to look at it again for another year’. It’s a process of constantly reviewing, adding and taking away.
We don’t do live entertainment any more. We used to open the pub on Fridays and Saturdays as a nightclub but stopped after a refurbishment in 2009 because we recognised the nightclub type of market would die off. We turned all the rooms into en-suites, it was very hard to do but we had to stop the late nights and concentrate on the rooms upstairs. It worked fantastically. If you have late nights on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s obviously fantastic for trade on the bar but, unfortunately, the noise level affects the rooms upstairs.
We do a lot of sporting events, such as the recent World Cup, which was great for the pub. We really concentrated on making it a good event, we had loyalty cards with prizes on the nights. Anything sporting we follow it. Rugby is very popular down here. Anything general like national or speciality food weeks, we jump on board with.
We mostly try to make sure we have something for everyone all the time if we can.
We are constantly evolving and one of our ideas is to put a gift shop downstairs. We have two cellars downstairs, one is our beer cellar but the other isn’t in use. A gift shop would complement the pub and offer local produce. We make a lot of home-made chutneys and jams, but that’s just one idea.
For us, we might not have something in the next couple of months but then we’ll see something that’s a really good idea. It might be a split-second decision but we’ll do that.
One example is we built our own cinema, in an area at the back of the pub that was a garage. Now it’s a 16ft state-of-the-art cinema. It’s fantastic and we’ve had that for about six years.
And then we had an area at the back of the pub where we had darts teams. We cut down on the darts teams and turned the area into an internet café.
We have a beer garden at the back, which was very small and wasn’t doing anything, but we turned it into a Mediterranean area, which is lovely and has a TV and music.
Going forward, we will always try to modernise and do things people might want.