The Bell in Avening: A local’s village pub: Good ale, TV sports, Asian cuisine and a comfortable environment.

This lovely Cotswold pub is in one of the largest in the Cotswolds with over 1000 inhabitants. It is a ‘locals’ pub according to its lease holding partners Geoff and Alan. They have both been in the trade most of their lives and after working together in a related business for ten years snapped up the chance to take over this village pub and create their ideal village local five years ago. They are 5 years into a 20-year fee of tie lease from a private freeholder, ‘If we ever get to the stage where it isn’t a locals’ pub, we will probably pack it in’.

A lot of people in the village are at work during the week so they don’t use the pub in the day and therefore the pub is not open during the day except for Saturday and Sunday. There’s a school but no shop or post office. There’s a social club who had regular events and there is also a village hall. The social club is used for skittles and line dancing amongst other things and there is a village café once a week for social meetings. ‘We have good relations with them, and the secretary frequents the pub.

Alan and Geoff are very keen on the quality of their ales and they run four all the time. Two are permanent, the WIckwar Bob and the Timothy Taylor Landlord. The other two are guest ales which are changed regularly, and they have used Artisan Ales from Minchinhampton recently.

They have a Sky and BT sports TV at one end of a snaking bar on 2 levels, so it doesn’t dominate the pub. They took up an offer from Supplier to supply some of our ale that helps the cost. ‘It’s not a big influence in customers using the pub, nevertheless, from 4 o’clock on Sunday the pub fills up for a soccer game and we are open for food on a Sunday evening. ‘We had a few in last night to watch the Ladies Soccer WC and as soon as the pub opens today, we will have on the cricket WC’.

Thirdly, their food is Asian cuisine franchised to a local town restaurant. Andy was the chef and he had to ‘take some time off work, so it was either close the kitchen or get someone else to run it. It was closed for three months but then we did a deal with an Asian restaurant in Stroud which we both knew, and Little India was formed’. The four staff live in Stroud, but they come up here 6 nights a week’.

You have the kitchen chef, the tandoori chef, the kitchen porter and the front of house person. He takes the orders and serves the tables. We have known the family for 15 years. We still have control, but we rent out the kitchen to them and they bring all their own supplies and do all the cooking and take all income from it. We pay all the overheads. They are Bangladeshi and a good set of lads and we get on well with them. They like the environment where we are more relaxed. We let them get on and run their food programme. Joe who fronts the house is very good with customers and they like the pub informality compared with a restaurant site where it is more formal. It’s working well after two years.

However, it wasn’t initially universally welcomed in the village. People thought ‘it was going to be an Indian Restaurant, but it isn’t, it’s Asian food in the village pub. People said they thought it would smell the village out, but it’s worked out fine. We’ve had some very good reports and we get new customers from a much wider area probably passing many other Asian restaurants. The village now likes the set up. If they don’t feel like cooking, they ring up and order a take-away as they would in the town. However, we don’t do deliveries as we want people to come to come to the pub and find out about the life of a village pub. Takeaways are becoming more popular and people who order them enjoy coming into a pub that has a great atmosphere and is welcoming.

People come here regularly from some distance. Even children love coming here for a meal and persuade their parents to return. One of our regulars brings a minibus of friends for the quiz night and they have their meal and then join in. He also pops in a couple of other times during the week although he doesn’t live in the village. He might take away a meal and he likes the pub because he can have a good ale with a curry. We serve food up to 10 or even 10.30 but ‘we don’t get people turning up here for an Asian meal full of ale as you would in town. They drink good ale alongside their food’.

When they first started it was Geoff out front and Alan in the kitchen and they did everything. They were able to survive because they did most of the work. However, nowadays they get away from the pub from time to time because one of us is always here to run the bar and they have franchised out the kitchen cooking. Working in the pub game takes over your whole life but the way we have it organised now we get some time with our partners and family. ‘It’s not a big pub; its only ten tables so we can manage with one person behind the bar some nights. We try to keep our costs down on everything. Its not what you take, it’s what you keep that matters’. They now employ a couple of part-time staff for a few shifts. ‘We wouldn’t want to go back to the past because we can now get some time off. It has become a more pleasant life for us. They now don’t have to be here all the time. ‘Alan and his partner or my partner and me can be away, and we know the pub will run smoothly and it doesn’t raise the overheads dramatically. Having a manager in would raise our costs far too high’ (Geoff).

When Andy does get away to other pubs, he is always looking for new ideas to help the business and make it a good village pub’. For example, they have now introduced free water for customers to help themselves. We have the log burner going in the winter and make it a very cosy village pub’.

They are content in that there are three levels to this building and 2 separate flats so ‘we all get to live here as well. It’s the best and easiest pub I have ever worked in because of the way we have it set up’ (Alan). ‘We’re a pair of older publicans who enjoy working a bar and people come in for the laughs’ (Geoff).

This partnership appears to have met their ideals in creating a local village pub and at the same time they have made it comfortable for themselves and their families. Lucky Avening.

All persons’ names are pseudonyms