Facts 'n' stats
Name: Brooksteed Alehouse
Address: South Farm Road, Worthing, West Sussex, BN14 7AE
Licensees: Aaron Burns and John Azzopardi
Wet:dry split: 100:0
We acquired the pub in 2017, it was already trading as a successful micropub but the original owner had become tired and wanted to move on.
We knew on purchasing the property that we wanted to think outside the restrictions the micropub label places on pubs like ours, and we also needed to develop the business outside of the confines of the space we had. The property was originally a hairdressing salon so space was as tight as Kevin Keegan’s perm and also away from the traditional micropub ‘rules’, which we found very restrictive.
The pub is run by myself (Aaron Burns) and partner John Azzopardi. We kind of fell into the trade through our love of real ale and craft beer and being inspired by our friends who run East Sussex’s first micropub – the Watchmakers Arms in Hove, East Sussex.
Our previous careers were quite different: John was a theatrical tailor and dressmaker by trade and I was a local government officer. We also have a small team of committed staff who love what we do and have a real commitment to the independent products we serve, and excellent customer service. We really couldn’t do it without them.
When the Brooksteed Alehouse found success, owners Aaron Burns and John Azzopardi decided to open a bottle shop on the same street in coastal town Worthing.
Bottle & Jug Dept offers a large selection of craft beers from Sussex, UK and international independent producers, an extensive range of natural and organic wines – of which a very large percentage are vegan-friendly – and a collection of small batch spirits.
The site hosts regular tasting nights and also events.
Our changes have been gradual but you wouldn’t recognise the pub from the one we took on almost three years ago. The first and easiest change was in the drinks offering.
When we took over, the property mainly served the real ale drinking community, with the odd wine and only bottled larger. We extended the range from five cask ales only to five cask ales and five on keg (including one premium lager), and an extensive range of bottles and cans.
These changes had a large part to play in us being a shortlisted finalist in Best for Beer at The Morning Advertiser’s Great British Pub Awards 2019. We also offer a large range of gin, whisky and rum.
The wine offering has also been improved and all our wines are natural or organic and vegan friendly. We’ve also made other changes, a larger bar area, the much-needed addition of an extra toilet, better seating and lighting and a comfy covered rear garden for all-weather outside drinking.
The pub is now recognisably a pub and not your typical rough and ready micro. Changing the offering has also changed the crowd, we now have a roughly 50:50 male:female split, which was nearer 80:20 in favour of men before.
With the newer offer of keg beer and gin, we’re attracting a slightly younger audience and not losing them to the town centre pubs or to Brighton, which is just along the coast. It’s obviously a successful recipe because we’ve noticed others emulating our ideas.
We have developed the outside of the pub to include a large, fully licensed outside seating area to the front.
And in partnership with other businesses along the parade, we have organised a number of annual events such as our Christmas Market and annual Oktoberfest. These events are hugely popular and bring trade from around the area and help to support our neighbouring businesses. We also organise two or three popup food events per week using street food vendors from Worthing and Sussex.
We strongly believe in supporting other businesses and acting as a draw to our town of Worthing and our business. We also believe that you need to place the pub at the heart of the community. In the 10 years before we opened, the local area had lost three of its nearest pubs.
We have our own community choir which meets on Monday evening when the pub is dark and attracts 50 to 60 members and is conducted by pub landlord John. The choir is mixed abilities and has been great for bringing the community together in song. It is huge fun and we use the choir to raise money for local community groups and charities, and have performed regular events and fundraisers and, in October, will raise money for mental health charities. We also sponsor one local charity or community group a month to raise funds for and have helped raise several thousand pounds already this year.
We have had a really successful year in 2019. We started off the year by being crowned Imbibe Pub Personalities of the Year in February and winning a local Community Award for best pub. We’re also up for two Adur and Worthing business awards at the end of 2019. Our plan for 2020 is to continue to innovate and build on this success. We’ve already opened our own bottle shop called Bottle & Jug Dept, which is located opposite the pub and specialises in craft beer, small-batch spirits and organic and natural wine. This was the first of its kind in Worthing.
Next year will see us organising more events, including beer festivals and taking our brand further into the community to other events and festivals. Many have asked us whether we would consider opening another pub or moving to larger premises. We’re acutely aware that the success of this business relies on our connection with our community – if you stretch that you risk breaking it, but who knows...