After 17 years as the landlord of the Royal Oak Inn Meavy, my future is uncertain …

The Royal Oak at Meavy is a unique situation. The Church originally owned the pub and 1836 approached the parish council and asked them to take on the management of the Inn. This is the story I’ve been telling customers since taking on the inn from the previous tenant in 2006.

I was planning to stay on for a further six years which my current lease allowed, and this would have taken me to my retirement…However, due to an administration error, I failed to give the correct notice to the Parish Council…. Personally I blame Prince Charles, as if you remember at the beginning of May this year the majority of the Country organising celebrations for the King’s coronation…

Personally, I was very excited and preoccupied as myself and my partner had been invited to coronation garden party at Buckingham Palace representing the HMS Ardent Association..

HMS Ardent was a Plymouth based type 21 frigate, which unfortunately sank during the Falklands conflict in May 1982.

With the loss of 22 of my ship mates.

So whilst I was in London, eating cucumber sandwiches and being introduced to the Duchess of Gloucester, I should’ve been emailing the parish council clerk stated my intention to continue at the Royal Oak for a further term.

The clerk of the Parish Council subsequently contacted me and informed me that I had missed the date. I was invited to a parish council meeting where I pleaded my case. Unfortunately, however, the Parish Council decided that they would take the opportunity to look for a new tenant….

My children have grown up around the pub. In fact, my youngest daughter was only four months old when I took the pub on in 2006.

I have had some great times during the last 17 years, and I’ve met some fantastic customers who have become great friends. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers who have supported me and my staff over the years..

As you can imagine during my time at the Royal Oak, I have come in contact with some outstanding staff who have also become part of the Oak family…I was reminded of this at the weekend when I attended the wedding and a number of the ex-Royal Oak staff members were in attendance.. I do worry for the current staff, especially at this uncertain time.

But hopefully the council will find a new tenant by the beginning of November and the staff jobs will be safe.

The current Parish Councillor’s have decided  to amend the current terms and conditions, so the pub must be open until 10 pm every evening of every day and have amended the current lease on offer to enforce this ….. in my humble opinion, this is commercial suicide, especially in the current hospitality industry crisis. I have been running the business for 17 years and I would like to think my opinion and my knowledge of the business counts for something but apparently it does not.

The Royal Oak Inn is a unique pub, but like all pubs it was hit hard during covid and due to the subsequent restrictions it has taken time to recover, so with peoples habits changing, the increase of costs across the board…we have definitely seen a downturn in business, especially the drinking side. This is making traditional pubs unprofitable.

But also the Royal Oak has never been a late night venue, and in fact, after running pubs in London, and Surrey, that was one of the attractions of taking on the tenancy at Meavy. I am also sure that people living adjacent and around the pub don’t want the pub to be open late at night with all the unsociable behaviour that that brings with it….

The Royal Oak thrives during a good summer, especially with its unique situation, overlooking the village green and oak tree. This then helps to get it through the long winter, unfortunately this hasn’t happened this sit within a village whose habitants, very rarely use it. In fact, there is only a few of the counsellors that use the Inn on an infrequent basis. And they have a very little commercial business experience between them. Don’t get me wrong, the parish council were very supportive during Covid lockdowns and they suspended my rent whilst we were closed. But to imagine that in this day and age with the cost of labour and electricity that the new tenant will be keeping the pub open over the winter until 10 pm is unsustainable.

My own future is uncertain, and I am not in a position to retire, so I will be looking for other opportunities, but I am very sad to be leaving the Royal Oak.

But also I’m proud that I will be handing the keys back to the  Parish Council to a much better Royal Oak than the one I took on seventeen years ago.

Just for the record, we started closing early on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday because I used to cook on those evenings but unfortunately I had to have a knee replacement and so was out of the business for over three months. initially I couldn’t find a chef to take my place, but in fairness, I couldn’t afford one either as we were very quiet on those evenings like the rest of the industry, so decided to close instead.

I will definitely miss the people, and I am also saddened to have to stand down as the chairman of the Parish hall. Meavy has been a huge part of my life, but I am looking forward to the next chapter..

So if you find yourself in the area before the end of October please drop in for a celebration drink to the past seventeen years and the future. 🍺

Best regards