It’s Hallowe’en! Meet the newest – but not scariest – landlord in Oxford

Despite Covid-19 restrictions, the new team running the Star in East Oxford are optimistic

Gus Rogers might be a familiar face to some customers at the Star, as he has run an Oxford pub before and comes from a family with strong links to Oxfordshire’s brewing tradition. The Star (on Rectory Road) re-opened on October 24 after a refurbishment, the Rogers family having bought the lease of the building.

The revamp includes a much needed clean-up with reclaimed oak floors favoured over the old carpets, re-upholstered seating, Unisex toilets and more than a few licks of paint. Attention will turn later to the garden and to establishing a kitchen, as the Star hasn’t served food for many years. The plan is to appeal not just to students as before, but to a wider cross-section of the East Oxford public.

Gus is one of the sons of Ian Rogers, who has been helping out at the pub over the last couple of weeks. Ian is well-known in brewing circles as joint owner of Wychwood brewery in the 1990s, after he and his late business partner Chris Moss bought out Paddy Glenny and the brewery was renamed Wychwood. It also operated a few pubs in Oxford.

Gus (right) with the editor (left) and chief reporter Tony Goulding

Glenny’s brewery occupied the same site as Clinch’s Eagle Maltings in Witney, dating from 1841. Although Wychwood Brewery moved to another site for a few years, it returned to the original site behind Corn Street in 1994 where it still operates today. It was taken over by Refresh UK, a subsidiary of Marston’s, in 2002 – before Marston’s instigated a full take-over in 2008.

Ian has been running Randall’s brewery in Guernsey, dating from 1868, for the last few years, but has now retired. He hints however that he’s not finished in the brewery business yet, so watch this space.

With this pedigree, we can expect Gus to serve a few real ales and we’re not disappointed. The two real ales during opening week were Loose Cannon’s Abingdon Bridge and Here’s Johnny, a red IPA from Siren Craft named after a line in the horror film The Shining – very appropriate for Hallowe’en week. Boxed real ciders are also available (Orchard Thieves and Venton’s last week), and a giant pumpkin currently graces the bar.

Gus behind the bar with his Hallowe’en treat

The Star – a free house – is not Gus’s first venture into the pub business. He used to run both the White Rabbit in Oxford and its sister pub in Bristol, the Oxford pub being an established entry in the Good Beer Guide while appealing mainly to younger people. The plan is to add a third hand pump for a variety of local real ales, whereas previously it served mainly XT.

This is a tough time to start a new pub venture, especially as Tier 2 restrictions banning different households from meeting anywhere indoors were introduced just a few days after re-opening. But the Star looks to be offering the right mix of good beer and good vibes, and is a valuable addition to the East Oxford scene.

So if Gus isn’t Oxford’s scariest landlord, who is? I’d welcome suggestions but had better keep my own pick a secret, as otherwise I might be seeing him in court!