Dates confirmed for reopening of popular gastropubs as Seafood founder looks ahead to a brighter future
A year after making the heartbreaking decision to call time on some of Lancashire's most popular gastropubs, the founder of Covid-hit Seafood Pub Company, Joycelyn Neve, has spoken of her relief and excitement at reopening six of them in a new venture.
Drinkers and diners were left shocked last June when, in the early days of the pandemic, it was announced that the Barrowford-based Seafood Pub Company, which boasted popular eateries such as the Forest at Fence, Alma Inn at Laneshawbridge and Assheton Arms at Downham, was closing after the company had failed to secure a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.
Fast-forward nearly 12 months and the future, for staff and customers alike, is looking a lot brighter with the news that six of the former Seafood Pub Company's properties - the Forest, Fence, The Fleece, Addingham, the Farmers Arms, Great Eccleston, The Derby Arms, Longridge, The Alma Inn, Colne, and The Fenwick, at Claughton, near Lancaster, have come under the ownership of the Oakman Group.
Speaking to the Burnley Express today, Joycelyn said she was looking forward to an exciting future with the end of lockdown approaching, and revealed how an old friendship with Oakman founder Peter Borg-Neal had secured a second chance for the Seafood Pub Company.
"Last year was horrid for everyone. We went into administration in June and having to close all our wonderful pubs was heartbreaking. The company had been my life for 10 years and our colleagues were like family," Joycelyn said.
"Peter is an old friend of mine and someone who I have alwys gone to for advice. He is the best in the business and he was one of the first people I called. We discussed our options and we both saw this as a great opportunity to retain the Seafood brand and benefit from Oakman's great support. We can see some light at the end of the tunnel now."
Based in the Home Counties, the Oakman Group has a similar profile of prestigious profile to the Seafood Pub Comapny, boasting prestigious gastropubs and great opportunities for staff, something which Joycelyn said she was delighted at.
Joycelyn, who took inspiration for her pub group from her father Chris who had years of experience in the fishing sector in Fleewood, added: "As I said, our staff have bene like family and so I'm so pleased that the last few weeks I've finally been able to contact as many as I can and bring them back.
"Obviously, some have gone on to other things so there will be job opportunities for new people. Oakman offer brilliant training for young people in the industry. I have always enjoyed watching our staff develop and build their confidence over the years."
Reopening dates have now been confirmed for each of the six pubs under the new Seafood pub, which are now undergoing "cosmetic" work after being left empty for a number of months.
"Some have suffered from burst pipes and all will need some cosmetic work," Joycelyn added "but it's been so heartening to be inside them once again. In fact, there seems to be a tap on the window every few minutes from locals outside asking when we're reopening.
"A lot of our properties are in rural or semi-rural areas, and are therefore hubs of the community. It will be so nice to have them back."
The Forest at Fence and the Fleece will reopen on May 17th, the Farmers Arms and Derby Arms on May 31st, and the Alma Inn and Fenwick on June 14th.
Meanwhile, the Barley Mow at Pendle, and the Assheton Arms at Downham, have not been included in the new group, with the former being taken over by a local consortium.
Joycelyn added: "I'm delighted for Nick and Lesley who have taken on the Barley Mow. I'm looking forward to being a customer there. As for the Assheton Arms, I wouldn't rule anything out at this stage."