Licensee celebrates 40 years behind bar

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Celebration: Licensee looks back on her time at Lancashire pub
Celebration: Licensee looks back on her time at Lancashire pub

Related tags Lancashire Robinsons

Licensee Lorraine Hewitson celebrated her 40-year milestone behind the bar at the Lancashire-based coaching inn the Royal Oak, citing the "extended family" of the community as her favourite part of the job.

The site was the most northerly Robinsons pub before the operator acquired Hartley’s of Ulverston in 1982.

Historically, the pub sat on the main road connecting the north of the country with the south before the M6 was built in 1959.

The old coaching inn is a nine-bedroom hotel in the market town of Garstang between Lancaster and Preston.

It has been in Hewitson’s husband Michael’s family since 1959, and she has been involved with the business for 64 years.

Hewitson and her partner took over from Michael’s mother after his father died. She’d asked them to come help out during her recovery from a hip replacement, and they never left.

Next, they took over the pub and Michel’s mother retired. This happened 40 years ago this December.

When they started they sold a lot of beer, but not much wine. Now, they sell far more wine due to their food offering.

They also used to have a chill cabinet with the wine in, which was Robinsons’ wine. When the operators altered the pub 30 years ago, gradually customer choice started to change.

Changing habits

Hewitson said that people’s habits had changed since Covid lockdown.

She said: “People don’t stay out as late and they come out earlier. We now have a great teatime trade between five and nine. Now, I don’t need to ring a bell for last orders at 11:30, those in the pub just wander off without any prompt.

“You used to ring the bell and they’d be doubling up, trebling up and you’d never get rid of them. Other drinking pubs perhaps still have these patterns, but our customers don’t do that anymore.

“I’ve also seen the change in who runs the pubs, half the pubs in Garstang are run by ladies, this wouldn’t have been the case once upon a time. I’ve got lots of women who also come in on their own, they feel safe and comfortable with me. We’ve seen an increase in families coming in too.”

Her favourite time of the year is when all the flags are up in town. They were up throughout May, and she believes they look “lovely” when they are fluttering away.

She also loves Christmas. The pub runs a big Victorian festival for a weekend during the festive season.

Looking back

Hewitson reflected on her favourite times: “The relief when we finished the alteration 30 years ago is probably my biggest memory.

“Honestly, it took two years back in them days. We didn’t close so we were working around the dust, I was so glad when they’d gone.

“I think they finished about October, and at Christmas, we had a Robinsons party here, with Mr Peter and his brothers (fifth-generation directors). In fact, William (current director, pub division) was the architect back then, with Tom O’Shea Brown too.

“He (William) was only a young lad, in his twenties. God, it took so long. Some days, we only took £4, and that was an old fella who used to come drink. But I mean it was a building site, who’d want to drink in here then?”

The highlight of running the pub for Hewitson has been the “extended family” of the community. The locals are her favourite bit about the job.

They keep every day interesting, and the function room is filled with awards, trophies and other bits from the local community groups, she added.

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