My three days running a pub

Tony Goulding “crosses the floor” at his favourite local – how did it go?

It was a real surprise to be asked by landlady Deborah Hall, at the Rose and Crown in North Parade, Oxford, if I would be interested in supervising the pub for a few days while the family were away on a much-deserved holiday to Gerona in Spain.

Over a couple of weeks, I spoke to landlord Andrew, the wise old soul of the pub. He was full of encouragement for me to take on the challenge. Adam, their son, who effectively runs the business, then arranged for me to take an online course of eight hours over a couple of days and a Zoom examination to qualify with a personal licence to run a pub. This daunting scene did not fill me with much enthusiasm, but the gauntlet had been thrown.

Landlord for three days….. Tony (right) with bar staff Marvin Herrera and Lydia Lockwood

I must admit I soon lost interest in the online course but with encouraging support from my lady Vanessa Shaw and a determination not to let the family down, I tried hard, took notes and persevered until I had to sit a mock exam with a 70% pass score. I got 75%.

I then visited the Rose and Crown where, in the cottage at the bottom of the pub’s courtyard, I was isolated in a secure environment to take a 60-minute Zoom examination. Nobody else was allowed in the room while this took place. I answered the 40 questions in 23 minutes, feeling a bit fed up but quite confident. I passed with 85%.

I popped into the Rose and Crown the day before I took over to meet Steve Jones, who is the usual relief manager at the pub, whose main job is running the Perch at Binsey. I collected the keys and had a further 90 minutes’ tuition on running the pub, being briefed on all aspects of bar work, licensing rules and the all-important alarm system, activated on leaving and arriving at the premises.

Meeting and greeting is what Tony did best — or was this unfortunate fellow being thrown out?

I arrived at 9.30am each day to welcome staff in and prepare for the day ahead. Fortunately, due to excellent staff, everything ran smoothly, and I ended up being useful picking up empty glasses and food plates! I thoroughly enjoyed the whole three days, especially the “meet and greet” part of the job. I made a few good friends during my time running the pub.

During the quiet times, I got to know some of the traders in North Parade Avenue. The very busy times involved two pre-wedding parties with no empty glasses left in the pub! It was hard work and long hours, and maybe I am too old now for this business!. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Would I do it again? Yes – but for shorter periods! This experience has opened my eyes to just how much is involved in running a pub, and how good the social life is.