Project could be winning ticket for Pub of the YearBy James Chapple
March 01, 2013
IN towns and villages across Hampshire and Surrey, the pub is the cornerstone of the community. It should not however be taken for granted - we regularly report on public houses in peril.
To celebrate and support our pubs and showcase what makes each one great, we have launched the News & Mail Pub of the Year 2013 competition. Each week, readers can get involved by using the form in the paper to vote for who they think deserves the title. Every vote counts.
LESS than six months after taking over one of Camberley’s oldest pubs – the Ancient Foresters – new owners Andrew Sully and Andrew Rutherford have already made waves in the town with their selection of well-kept beers, a new menu and a friendly atmosphere.
After toying with a number of names including The Saucy Bear and The Bear Arms, the friends-turned-business-partners decided to keep things simple, rechristening the venerable Park Street pub The Bear. As a candidate for the News & Mail’s Pub of the Year 2013 award, the owners say The Bear has gone from strength to strength since it was brought back from the brink in July last year.
“We wanted to put our own stamp on the place,” said Mr Sully, 33.
“We are experienced barkeepers – we knew when we took on the challenge just how much hard work it would take to make this place thrive again.
“And for a while you can’t help but feel a few jitters but we have been here for nearly six months now and it feels fantastic to reflect on how far we’ve come.”
The pair, who have more than 10 years’ bar experience each, said while they were proud to take the reins at one of the town’s most historic pubs, they were keen to make sure The Bear fashioned its own identity in Camberley.
“We’re the only independent in town – that gives us freedom to create something unique,” said Mr Sully.
“We would like to build a reputation for good food and well kept beers.”
Each night of the week offers a new experience – on Mondays, there is a quiz night and on Tuesday, a poker night. There are also plans for a cheaper night on Wednesdays and on the fourth Thursday of every month, a Man vs Food eating challenge followed by live music.
“Fridays and Saturdays have been great too,” said Mr Rutherford, 32. “We get a good crowd in before people head out for dinner and we pick up a lot of trade later on in the evening too. I think a good mix of chart and classic music helps too.
“And then on Sundays, we do a proper, homemade roast to wind down the week,” he added, explaining the pub had also teamed up with local suppliers to source food from the area
“We took over the pub on July 31 and had it open again on August 3 to catch the end of the summer,” said Mr Sully. “It’s time for us to push on now and make this place something everyone in the town can be proud of again.
“We invest a lot of time in getting to know our regulars. It’s as much about making friends as it is serving customers – these are the people we spend the majority of our time with.”
After the pair met in Tenerife more than a decade ago, Mr Sully returned to Camberley to work at another pub while Mr Rutherford remained in Spain.
But the pair kept in touch and it was not long before they decided to open a pub together, admittedly after a few drinks.
“I was already in Camberley and Andrew’s family are all from Farnborough so it seemed like a good spot,” said Mr Sully. “We have a great deal of affection for the town and the area.”
The pub has a rich history, according to Camberley historian Ken Clarke, who said the boozer dates back to 1863 when it was first licensed as the Ancient Foresters to a Walter Drake.
Mr Clarke explained it was a pub largely reserved for the labouring class and was later run by a string of breweries in the late 1800s and into the early 19th century.
But now, the landlords Mr Sully are hoping to forge their own piece of Camberley history.
“We want to be that place in town people talk about,” said Mr Sully.
“We’ve just got to make the most of a great start.”