Love Your Local: The Red Lion

The revamped Red Lion
The revamped Red Lion
The property in Turner Avenue, Gosport, has been subject to a council closure order

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The Red Lion Hotel is roaring to success after experiencing a huge boost in takings.

The imposing Cosham pub is up 40 per cent from this time last year thanks to a major £300,000 makeover in February.

It was given a complete facelift inside and now prides itself on serving freshly-made pizza from a kitchen that diners can see.

The walls have also been brightened up and the place looks warm and friendly.

Manager Ian Durrant, 44, says he’s delighted with the way things have turned out since the improvements were made.

He’s one of 12 staff who help to keep a steady ship.

‘We have seen a massive surge in trade from when we had the refurbishment,’ he said.

‘We are 40 per cent up from this time last year and the food we serve is flying out the door.

‘It’s impressive. All the managers in head office are happy.

‘It’s fresh, warm, family-friendly and has no age barrier.

‘You get youngsters sat next to ladies on a night out and there is no problem. It’s amazing in that sense.’

Takings have also been healthy thanks to the World Cup as football fans pour in to watch teams from around the globe – and watch England’s brief stint in the competition.

The pub enjoys doing its bit for worthy causes and has pulled in £1,000 for The Rowans Hospice in the past 12 months.

Cash has been raised from a quiz and money is also given to Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Ian said: ‘It’s about being a part of the community, that’s the key element of any local. The pub trade has changed.

‘It’s about being a customer favourite and making it a comfortable, happy environment for people.’

Customers can stay at the pub and there is a choice of 16 guest rooms – which are fully booked this week and almost filled the week after.

‘We get tourists, business people and a lot of international people coming to stay,’ Ian said. ‘It’s a fundamental part of our trade.’

The pub will hold a pizza stall, in conjunction with Owens, in Palmerston Road, Southsea, at the Southsea Food Festival from July 19 to 20.

And there are plans being discussed to hold a children’s fun day outside The Red Lion Hotel.

Two real ales are served and changed regularly.

The refurbishment was carried out while the pub was part of Orchid Group, but that company has now been bought out by pub giant Mitchells & Butlers.

Ian said: ‘All the managers in the head office are happy with the way things are going here.’

Meet the landlord

VETERAN pub manager Ian Durrant has been in the game for 22 years, but he still gets a thrill out of it.

Ian, 44, said life at The Red Lion Hotel is swell and loves the way the place feels and looks now following the extensive makeover.

‘Every day is different. It sounds like an old cliché but it’s true,’ he said.

‘It’s an enjoyable place to work and it’s a great company to work for.

‘I have a great team around me.’

Ian has worked for a whole range of pubs across the area, and started life at Clarence Gardens in London Road, North End, Portsmouth.

He admits that in order to keep a step ahead, pubs need to think of different ways to draw in customers now, rather than just open their doors and sell alcohol.

And he believes selling food and thinking of things to do for the community is a key part of a venue’s success.

‘We’ve got a new, great concept here and that’s what makes it more special,’ Ian said.

‘As a pub you have got to adapt now in order to survive in the industry.

‘So many pubs are doing food or doing something off-beat to make them the place to go.

‘I think selling food is key as well.’

While Ian has tried his hand in many pubs, he’s content with life at The Red Lion Hotel.

‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ he said.

‘It’s a great place to come and it’s in a nice setting.

‘We don’t just get people from Cosham, people also come from Drayton, Waterlooville and all over the place.’