Dee Smith, local manager at The Golden Lion since the 1st of October of last year, is beaming at me, as I stammer my way through some obligatory questions about the transition which seems to have occurred, unexpectedly, as if fallen from the sky.
Yes, she says, on Wednesday the 6th of February, the same day that Steven Blair moved on from managing the Allendale Inn, new tenants took over at The Golden Lion as owners Richard and Louise Price, with whom the pub was profiled in an entry here in the Allendale Diary less than a month ago, made their management farewells. Time sometimes goes very quickly, all at once like, doesn’t it?
The new tenants, holders of a 10 year lease, are a small company marshalling a portfolio of about 8 public houses, with an approachable CEO and a good communications structure, says Dee, and with her guidance on the local management side, they hope to keep the business running ‘the same as it ever was’.
We reminisced a little, before the bus came to take me back up into the hills, about previous managements we’d known since Richard had purchased the property around about 2007: that would be Gus Dalton, Michael and Margaret Stonehouse, Les Elliott, and then perhaps five years or so ago Richard and Louise and family had returned from Australia to take over the management of the premises themselves.
That return to management by owner saw the next stage of reconstruction of the hotel, with a dramatic renovation of the upstairs kitchen, the redecoration and refurbishment of the upstairs restaurant, as well as a consistent repair of the front façade (and presumably the roof), and, most lately, the renovation of the fixtures underneath the great pub bar. No doubt these renovations stood the premises in good stead for passing on to an eager tenant, which somehow looks like acutely wise business management. That the new tenants want things to feel the same as they ever were, or at least the same as they’ve been since the original 2007 purchase, is a testament to the buildup of the business by all of the managers (tenants or owners), over the years.
I’d hate to say just how bad the old Golden Lion was when we arrived here in the winter of ’91, but on my first visit to the square, my feet took me unerringly to its neighbouring pub, with scarcely a backward glance, and it went downhill thereafter. So it’s quite clear to me that business at the busiest pub in town now, the Lion, has been developed steadily for the past dozen years. And since it’s meant to be the same sort of service, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue in similar style, really.
Good luck to Dee Smith, manager, and to the new tenants, as they continue along the well-hewn path of prosperity and good will carved out by the careful diligence of managers and owner-managers over the past decade.