How were you introduced to work in the licensed trade?
My parents ran a pub in Dorset so I’d always been involved in the trade. Then I worked for a company in Sheffield as the Head of Managed Houses, and the local BII team came in and asked if they could use one of our rooms to have a meeting. We continued to support them and give them rooms for meetings for the Yorkshire region.
When I moved on to work for Tetley's Brewery in Leeds, and very much the same thing happened - the BII came to us looking for space to have meeting.
In the early days it wasn’t possible for brewery employees like operations staff or area managers to be members, it was only open to publicans, but as soon as membership was opened then I joined – that would have been in 1983!
Things have changed quite a lot since then! Why do you think people wanted to join when the BII first started?
It was definitely recognition. I remember when I made my application I had to get a score! That score was made up of all different sorts of criteria such as ‘what qualifications have you got?’, ‘how long have you worked in the industry?’, ‘have you ever run a pub?’ all of which I had done so I got in quite easily.
It was a thing of pride to say you were a member, the reason behind the BII at that time was to show that you did have skills and it gave recognition of your place within the industry and your ability.
Why did you start volunteering your time on the BII Yorkshire council?
I decided to set up my own pub business, and through that I was involved in Sheffield Pub Watch which I chaired for 10 years. I then became a member of the FLVA then I became a committee member of that and went up through the committee ranks to become national president, and I think it was at the same time that I stepped up into the Yorkshire council role with the BII.
I guess I just like being in charge!
Joking aside, what was it that these organisations and the BII offered that made you want to get involved?
I’m only joking there about being in charge – those organisations were all about helping people in trouble and the BII was about helping people to become better publicans, better professionals, and that’s what I did all the way through my working career. Tried to make people better publicans.
My father was much the same, always involved in other things other than running the pub – either as a local councillor, or in the local FLVA and the national equivalent. It was always part of what I understood happened as a publican really.
What would be your piece of advice for someone about to start running their first pub?
Work in a pub, work behind a bar and see if you like it, don’t just be a customer and think you like it! Actually do the graft, find out that way if you enjoy being in that sort of business and ‘on stage’ at the bar. Then just do all the research that you can, do some training, get some qualifications, understand what the business is all about, do the figures.
Know what your legal requirements are if you are to become a tenant or lessee, just do as much research as you can about what you’re getting into and don’t just think that you’ve always wanted to run a pub and therefore it will be a success. Take advice and act on it.
Oh and I’ve missed the main thing – join the BII!