Landlords of The British Queen Pub aim to 'bring the high street to the back street'

THEY want to ‘bring the high street to the back street’ after transforming the ‘run down’ pub they took over in October 2018.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 11:00 am

Alex and Sam Vernal took the plunge to become landlords of The British Queen Pub on Queen's Road, Fratton, when the industry was on its knees.

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Sam and Alex Vernal of the The British Queen (Freehouse) in Fratton

‘When we took over the pub it was run down,’ Alex, 42, said. ‘It would not have survived.

‘I was brand new to the trade and was prepared to try anything and everything. People were asking why did we get into the industry at such a difficult time but I figured if the trade was at rock bottom there was only one way it could go.’

Of course the couple had no idea a global pandemic would strike just over a year from taking over.

But it hasn’t deterred the ambitious duo from delivering a high quality watering hole.

‘We have a good lot of locals but back-street pubs can have the image of the swinging door when everyone looks at you as you walk in,’ he said.

‘We are trying to evolve from that. Historically pubs were a place in the community where everyone knew and looked after each other. That’s what we want to create.

‘We aim to offer quality food, drink and entertainment at a fair price. We want to offer a fast and quality service with good presentation. All our staff wear a uniform and do a great job. We want to bring the high street to the back street.’

The mantra to have the personal touch is why The British Queen Pub is the antithesis to pubs owned by large ‘soulless’ pubs run by corporations like Wetherspoons who are ‘crippling the market’ by buying booze in high volumes and selling it cheaply.

Despite the trials and tribulations of owning a pub during a pandemic, the couple have brought changes to the interior and exterior of the pub, as well as the atmosphere within it.

New signs at the front with a hanging sign sets a welcoming scene for punters. Inside they have refurbished the front and back bars, as well as the garden. A cafe in the back room now offers a rich selection of breakfast menus. ‘We try and make it so each room has the opportunity to make money to maximise what we have,’ he said.

Changes forced by the pandemic have also led to the landlords not being afraid to admit taking advantage of opportunities. While other pubs have said table service eats into profits, Alex says the opposite is true. ‘Table service has worked wonders for us,’ he said. ‘It’s lazy for others to say it doesn’t work.

‘If you’re behind the bars you have to wait for customers to come to you but with table service you can see whose drinks are getting low and ask them. Even if you only get 50 per cent saying yes you are increasing sales. On a Friday and Saturday night when I do this my turnover is double.’

But as well as keeping a close eye on maximising opportunities, Alex wants to continue ‘evolving’ the pub to make it a place all people enjoy visiting. ‘We care about people and like the ‘80s American sitcom Cheers, want to make it the sort of place where everyone knows your name,’ he said.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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