When the Delme Arms closed earlier this year, locals feared the worst.
But after being taken over by a set of new owners who were committed to rescuing the community pub, it is now back on its feet.
The pub, in Cams Hill, Fareham, has been given a fresh start and it’s good news for beer lovers because there’s no restrictions on what drinks can be served.
It reopened in August following an extensive refurbishment – and new landlord Neil Matthews says he has been overwhelmed by the positive response to the changes by the locals.
He runs the venue on behalf of three entrpreneurs who bought it off Punch Taverns.
‘The most intriguing aspect has been the positive feedback from everybody,’ said Neil, 46.
‘Going back 25 years ago, it was a really good pub and so many people would come in.
‘But unfortunately due to a lack of investment, it had gone downhill.
‘But thanks to the new owners, it has been given a fresh start and it looks fantastic.
‘The day-time trade is picking up and the evenings have been going really well.’
Neil said the pub’s function room has gone down a storm with locals as he hires it out for free and makes his money through what’s spent at the bar.
‘The function room is fully-booked up every Saturday in October and November,’ he said.
‘I just want to get as many people back through the doors.
‘I don’t want to charge to try and get them in.’
Doom Bar ale features on tap all the time and another two are rotated weekly.
Men’s and women’s dart teams play each week and there’s a quiz on Wednesdays.
Neil has big plans for the pub – and hopes to hold a beer festival with a marquee in the garden during the bank holiday in May next year.
He also wants to ensure his pub becomes family-focused and a party for adults and children will be held on New Year’s Eve with a free jukebox.
‘This is a locals’ pub and I used to drink in here with my parents and their friends,’ he said.
‘It had a real local feel to it and now it’s starting to take off again.’
Neil, who has eight bar staff, said that he doesn’t see the new Cams Mill pub opposite as competition given that it is more geared to be more of a restaurant.
‘You get a lot of customers that come in here before and after they’ve been for a meal there,’ Neil said.
‘I am what they call a wet-led pub.’
Local football teams have also started using the pub and Neil hopes that he can sponsor one of them in the near future.
Meet the landlord
FAMILY man Neil Matthews believes it’s important a pub is run on good values.
And that includes making sure children are involved and have a great time.
He has three young ones of his own who he goes to visit in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, each week.
And he hopes that one day they will be able to follow him in his line of work.
‘From my perspective, it’s really important for my children to be part of my life and if I don’t make this pub family-friendly, then I don’t know how they would be able to fit in,’ he said.
‘They are the most important thing in my life, and I would like them to work with me one day if that is something they want to do.’
Neil says he has fond memories of life in the Delme Arms back in its heyday.
‘It was one of the first pubs I drank in and that was back in the 1980s,’ he said.
Neil grew up in Fareham and was in the leisure industry for 27 years before taking over the pumps at The Delme Arms.
He worked at leisure centres across the coast including Worthing and Southampton before being lured back to his hometown.
‘I feel that I have come home,’ Neil said.
‘It’s where I grew up and I have got a lot of friends and family in the area, and along with that comes their support.
‘It’s great to be back.’
Neil said the work is tough being a landlord – but said it was very similar to the long hours involved in running leisure centres and being responsible for around 100 staff.
‘It’s still very much customer-focused,’ he said.