Love Your Local: The Mermaid, Portsmouth

GARDEN Landlord of The Mermaid pub Arnie Lerouge in his new beer garden  Picture: Steve Reid (122074-370)
GARDEN Landlord of The Mermaid pub Arnie Lerouge in his new beer garden Picture: Steve Reid (122074-370)

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It used to be a run-down pub with a tired-looking beer garden.

Now The Mermaid, in New Road, Buckland in Portsmouth, has been given a new lease of life thanks to hands-on French landlord Arnie Lerouge.

The 38-year-old gathered up a team of building contractors to help spruce up the land around the pub and give it a more family-friendly feel.

The team knocked down old trees in the beer garden and put a layer of new grass in its place.

As part of the work a children’s play area and a gravel area for people to play bowls on was built.

At the same time Arnie gave the bar a lick of paint and kitted the place out with new carpets and a new kitchen.

The work was funded by Arnie and the pub’s owner Punch Taverns.

And everyone celebrated their painstaking efforts when a family fun day was held at the pub last month.

Local bands, a DJ and Pompey legend Alan Knight entertained the crowds while children had fun on a bouncy castle and tried out all the new play equipment.

Arnie, who runs the pub with his wife Ofelia Lerouge, said: ‘I’m impressed with how the place looks now. The work needed doing.

‘It didn’t used to be a particularly nice place to live.

‘Hopefully more people will be encouraged to stop by and enjoy a beer in our new garden on a nice day.’

The pub was built in 1900 for The Pike Spicer Brewery, which was based in Penny Street, Old Portsmouth at the time.

Ten years later the brewery was bought by Portsea-based Brickwoods Brewery.

As well as having a darts and a pool team the pub is only one of a handful in the area that plays bar billiards.

Later in the year Arnie is also looking to take some of his loyal customers by coach to annual horse racing event Glorious Goodwood.

He plans to hold charitable events and set up a pub quiz.

Arnie, who employs two barmaids and one barman, said: ‘I want to be seen as an interesting landlord and not just someone who stands behind the bar and serves beer. It’s important to look after your locals.

‘It’s a locals’ pub here and everyone is a great bunch.

‘We have made some massive improvements and it’s had a positive affect on business.’

MEET THE LANDLORD

LANDLORD Arnie Lerouge had a varied career path before he took over the beer pumps at The Mermaid.

Mr Lerouge, who is from Normandy, moved to the UK 20 years ago.

After taking up the role of barman at Portsmouth Marriott Hotel he decided to work on board luxury cruise ships.

He lasted eight years in the profession, which gave him the opportunity to travel all over the world.

‘I had an amazing time, life was fantastic,’ Mr Lerouge said.

‘During my time on the cruise ships I met my wife Ofelia - and after we got married I decided to give up the job so we could start family.’

Mr Lerouge then returned to France before taking over The Shearer Arms, in Shearer Road, Buckland, in 2003.

Seven years later he decided to embark on a new challenge as the landlord of The Mermaid.

Now his feet are firmly settled at the Buckland pub, which also has a function room for birthday parties and funeral wakes.

‘I’ve loved my time here,’ Mr Lerouge said.

‘Some days can be exhausting but it’s definitely worth it.’

Sarah Walshe, 28, of Jersey Road, Buckland, has been a barmaid at the pub for two and a half years.

‘Ever since the beer garden was improved we’ve had a lot more families coming in,’ she said.

‘Arnie likes to make everyone feel welcome. You enter this pub as a stranger and leave as a friend.’