Family is top priority for landlord who took on once notorious North End pub

The Grapes pub on London Road, North End
The Grapes pub on London Road, North End
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When family man Danny O’Brien took over a notorious North End pub, it was his top priority to clean up the boozer and make it child-friendly.

Danny, 30, from Purbrook, took over The Lanyard in London Road in November 2015. Since then, he’s put all his efforts into making it a family-friendly establishment – somewhere his two children would be safe to come to.

He changed the pub’s name — renaming it the Grapes — and gave it a refurbishment. He also set out a strict policy on drugs and behaviour, barring anybody that didn’t comply.

The former bailiff said: ‘We didn’t want to be associated with the Lanyard so we changed all the beers to different brands and completely stopped showing sport, which the pub was well known for.

‘It is a completely different venue now and we have a zero policy on drugs. We have worked hard to make it family friendly. We’re more female orientated.

‘North End can be a hard area and sometimes we suffer as we don’t let anybody in who will spoil it for everybody else. We try to stay true to our family values.’

The pub runs quizzes, poker nights, ladies nights, music contests and much more. It has a wheel of fortune contest with instant prizes and it has been holding events to tie in with the World Cup matches, which it has been showing on its five screens.

But surprisingly one of the pub’s most popular events takes place on a Wednesday morning when the venue transforms into a child’s play zone, with soft play equipment from Danny’s other company Go Bananas.

The regular event, which is free to attend and starts at 10.30am, has proved popular with parents who want a more relaxed place to meet for coffee and a bite to eat, rivalling many local playgroups.

Special characters, such as Fireman Sam, often pop by, much to the delight of the children, and mums can take advantage of the pub’s delicious breakfast menu, which Danny says he’s worked hard to perfect, trying at least 18 different sausages to find the best one.

But it’s not all been plain sailing for Danny and his wife Jeni.

He said: ‘It has been a bit tough at times but that’s the same for any pub. The industry has suffered with rates going up and custom going down, but generally it’s been good for us. We are always trying to think up new things.’

Danny said he’s looking forward to hosting the final of the Search for a Star contest on Sunday, from 4pm. The contest, which has been running since February, will see someone walk away with a £2,000 prize.