Thursday, 30 April 2009

How to run a pub: Ask Sonia at Surlingham

THE PUBS along the Wherryman's Way aren't good enough. There, I've said it. Not all of them of course and I'm certainly not going to name names, but I have seen a lack of friendliness, a lack of service and a lack of atmosphere. It's been my biggest disappointment since I started this project four year ago.

So it was great to pop in to The Ferry House, Surlingham this evening for a swift one on the way home from work. For 7pm on a Thursday the place was rocking. Fellas were playing darts, couples were eating good-looking meals and several more people were outside enjoying the beautiful views across the river. Unlike so many boozers, it had a heartbeat.

New - or relatively new - landlady Sonia Cox is clearly doing something right. In between some good-natured grief from drinkers at the bar, she told me how the locals had rallied round since she'd taken over. One regular is creating a website; another has taken some great photos of local scenes. A walking group will all be round for lunch tomorrow; they'll park at the pub and be allowed to use her loo before they start. It's not rocket science this. It's about giving people what they want, when they want it and having a bit of personality. Oh and food, all day every day. That's crucial too.

Pubs are closing down by the dozen at the moment and I feared that another bad summer might push a Yare pub under. It might yet happen. But the Ferry House will be alright. Why? 'Cos Sonia's got it sussed.

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