The Howard Arms, which recently reopened following a £330,000 investment from Star Pubs & Bars, has been transformed to commemorate the years between 1916 and 1972 when the Government took Carlisle’s pubs into state management.
The State Management Scheme was introduced in a government attempt to control the drinking habits of locals and reduce drunkenness during the First World War.
The pub’s new 1920s look and feel includes a renovated kitchen, period bric-a-brac, staff clad in collarless shirts, braces and flat caps, and a menu featuring spam fritters, mince and dumplings and treacle sponge.
“It’s a fascinating and little-known part of pub history that changed the face of Carlisle’s pubs,” Irving explained.
“Civil servants ran all pubs following strict rules; beer’s alcoholic content was reduced, food and activities introduced, coffee and cakes stocked and women encouraged to visit.
“As one of the last remaining traditional pubs in the city centre, I thought it would be fun to recreate those days and give the Howard Arms a point of difference as a place of historical interest.”
Star’s announcement follows news that the operator of more than 2,000 sites has ring-fenced £6.73m to revamp the outside spaces of 230 pub gardens this year, as part of the pubco’s wider £50m investment plan.
As reported by The Morning Advertiser, more than half a billion pounds has been invested into UK pubs by several of the country’s largest pubcos, including Star.
Vision brought to life
“I approached Star with the idea and they loved it,” Irving added. “It has been a good partnership – they’ve supported me throughout and given me the freedom to bring my vision to life.
“We’ve taken the Howard Arms back to the 1920s but we’re also serving modern ‘essentials’ like Prosecco and barista-quality coffee.”
Irving, who already operates the 2016 Great British Pub Award-winning Best Newcomer the White Mare in Beckermet and the Crown in Stanwix, both Cumbria – is eyeing further expansion in the hope of operating five leased pubs in and around Carlisle.
“Having lived in the area for the past 30 years, I’ve got a good local knowledge that helps identify strong pub business opportunities,” she added.
“Leased is the way to go as far as I’m concerned because I don’t want to put capital into a freehold.”
According to Star Pubs & Bars’ operations director Gary Corney, this latest project with Irving – following a £20,000 beer garden revamp at the Crown – comes as part of substantial investment in Carlisle.
“Dianne is a great licensee and very creative,” Corney explained.
“We’ve been delighted to support her in this new venture. There’s nothing like the Howard Arms in the city, it’s a fantastic addition and a destination venue.
“Carlisle is a regional centre, with lots to offer residents and visitors. We’re pleased to be investing £550,000 in the city’s pubs this year as part of our nationwide £50m pub investment programme.”