When Jon and Kerry McKerracher took on The Hole in The Wall a decade ago, they never imagined it would become the success it is today.
The Southsea boozer has been crowned the Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire pub of the year for the third year in a row. And it’s because of the pub’s passion for real ale and family environment that has seen it go from strength to strength.
Jon, 44, and Kerry, 41, bought the pub in 2012 after previously running it under a pub company.
It now means they have the flexibility to offer punters some of the best and most unusual beers around.
Jon said he’s amazed by how well the pub has taken off and the fact it has yet again been crowned the best in the area by the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.
‘We are yet again absolutely amazed and this is the fifth time we have won this award now,’ he said. ‘We’re also the first pub in the area to have won it three years on the trot.
‘I again thank our customers and staff, and having a good team working for you is one of the most important things.’
It was Jon and Kerry’s 10th anniversary at the pub last Saturday, but they chose not to do anything to mark it as they were just happy to see their recent success.
The pub’s has five beer pumps and serves drink straight from a stillage, and beers are rotated to keep drinkers interested.
‘We have gone from strength to strength and it’s good because we are not shackled by a pub company,’ Jon said.
‘We can do what we want and our mortgage is less than the rent we were paying before.’
Space is tight in the pub, but the couple have found extra ways of using it for the benefit of their business.
They’ve set up a cabinet where bottled beers are sold to take away and a mini sweet shop has also been set up behind the bar. That was the inspiration of Jon and Kerry’s children Jay, 14, and Maisie, seven, who thought it would be a good idea and a way of mucking in.
‘The sweet shop has gone down really well with the customers,’ Jon said.
‘We want them to do things with their lives and it’s teaching them about maths skills.’
Jon said he can see himself working at The Hole in the Wall for at least the next 10 to 20 years.
‘We’re in no rush to go anywhere,’ Jon said. ‘People have said why don’t you go off and do something else and make that a success too, but I’ve said that if I turned my back on this place it would probably go downhill.’
Meet the landlord
LANDLORD Jon McKerracher was a milkman prior to taking on The Hole in The Wall.
But he’s always had a love for the pub trade and in the late 1980s and early 1990s he worked behind the bar at The Three Marines and The Alma Arms, both in Highland Road, Eastney, Portsmouth.
He said there wasn’t any particular reason why the couple chose the pub they’re at, except that it seemed like the right thing to do.
‘There was no real reason, but we have always liked pubs and it was just one of those things that happened,’ Jon said.
Jon said he prides himself on supporting small breweries from across the country when stocking up on his beer.
‘Buying the pub and turning it into a freehouse was definitely the best thing we have done,’ he said.
‘We try to not use any of the big breweries when buying our beer. We always like to use smaller businesses and local beers.’
The pub holds an annual beer festival in the first week of October and there’s a quiz on Thursdays.
‘We always know we are going to be a bit quieter in the summer because we don’t have a beer garden,’ Jon said.
‘But then come September time people start packing their barbecues away and start coming back to the pub.
And Jon admits he regularly faces a ‘healthy problem’ in that given the pub’s limited size and popularity, some visitors who come by leave as there’s nowhere to sit.
‘We have come to the pinnacle of what we can do because of our size,’ Jon said.
‘There’s not really much else we can do.’