Retiring licensee ‘wouldn’t open a pub now’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Through the ages: the March Hare opened its doors in 1958 (image credit: Google Maps)
Through the ages: the March Hare opened its doors in 1958 (image credit: Google Maps)
An 80-year-old licensee who is retiring from the trade today (13 August) told The Morning Advertiser she wouldn’t open a pub currently due to restrictions and safety.

Margaret Dove took on the March Hare, which is owned by Ei Group, in Sneinton, Nottingham, in 1958 with her husband George and has been there ever since.

When it comes to running a pub these days, Margaret said she wouldn’t be prepared to do that, knowing what she knows now.

She said: “There's too many restrictions, on things like health and hygiene. It was a different life then, it wasn't mad like it is now with the drugs, the fighting and the knife crime – it's frightening.

“If I am downstairs on my own, I lock the doors. I have got monitors up so the regulars know to tap on the window and I will let them in but anybody else no because it's a bit daunting being on your own.

“My husband has been dead 12 years, I never thought I would last that long on my own here. It is a bit frightening because there's a lot of naughty people about.”

Margaret vividly remembers the days when she and George took the pub – selling out of beer just two hours after opening.

Opening night

She said: “My husband had been in the army and he had already had two pubs before. This one came on the market. It had been pulled down and built a new pub but they wanted something different, a new name.

“We opened on 31 October 1958. It was a Friday. We had police on horseback when we opened, they stopped the traffic because the roads are a bit narrow.

“The brewery then was Warwick & Richardson of Newark, which gave us a couple of barrels of bitter. Everyone came in to have a look. We opened at 6pm and, by 8pm, there wasn't a drink left in the pub.

“It was great. There was comradeship because it was not long after the war and a nice new pub. All you could then in a pub [to eat] was a packet of crisps and a cheese and onion cob.

“Lager didn't come on the market until the 1970s. Carling, Foster's this, that and the other and then it spiralled from there.”

Margaret outlined her stand-out moment from the past 61 years in the trade and relived the memory of an important guest visiting the pub.

She said: “We had a party here one night, the lord mayor was invited to present some trophies. His car was out the front and his chauffeur was meant to have stayed in it but the food and drink came out so I invited him in for a drink and something to eat, the lord mayor said it was all right.

“The car was practically stripped. The badge had been taken everything. The poor bloke lost his job over it. You can laugh at it now. He comes in and says 'can you remember when I parked the Rolls Royce'?"

Different challenge

She added: “A Rolls Royce in those days, parked in front of your pub with the flags on, crests, the symbol on the front. It was terrible.”

Margaret also compared the prices of beer in 1958 to now, citing it as one of the trade's biggest issues.

“When we first opened, [a pint of] mild was 1 shilling and 2 pence a pint (equivalent to approximately 6p today), bitter was 1 shilling and 4 pence (equivalent to approximately 7p today). Now mild is £3 a pint and bitter is £3,” she said.

However, Margaret also lauded her time in the trade and how much she has enjoyed it over the decades.

She added: “Every day is a different challenge. You never know what is going to come through your door. Every day is different.

“I have loved it, every minute of it and my husband did. We never had a holiday, we were here seven days a week. We started the pool teams.”

Margaret doesn’t use a digital till, instead relying on brain power to work out what people owe for their drinks.

She added: “I've still got the old-fashioned till, like, Arkwright (in Open All Hours​). Customers laugh but it still works.

“You have to ring up in your head so you've got to be on the ball, you've got to be able to add up. When I go to the supermarket at the checkout, I've added it up before they have pressed it through the till. They look at you [like you're] daft and I say 'well, I'm used to it'.

“I also wash all the glasses by hand. You just get used to it. You get a sink full of lovely hot water, you put your steriliser in, you've got your brushes, you just dip them in and they dry.”

Margaret admitted she will miss working in the pub trade and but she won’t be sitting still after retirement.

She said: “I am 80 but so what? I have still got a bit of go in me. I don't think I'm ready for my Zimmer frame yet.”

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