Buzz still there for Fat Cat pub owner celebrating 25 years in charge
- Credit: Charlotte Bond/Su Anderson
Popular pub The Fat Cat is celebrating 25 years of business in Spring Road, Ipswich.
John Keatley and his late wife Annie took ownership of what was then an old Tolly tavern doing very little trade - turning it into a multiple-time winner of Ipswich Pub of the Year in a quarter-century of business.
To celebrate the milestone on December 1, beer and spirit prices will be dropped by "at least £1 on everything" and Indian food will be on offer at the pub for the day.
Mr Keatley, 73, said: "I can honestly say it's a community pub. We see people from all walks of life - from emergency service workers to builders to teachers on Friday nights.
"Pubs are a real family business - my father owned a place in Covent Garden in the late 60s, my mum had a pub in Wales, my brother runs three Fat Cats in Norwich and my son has the Fat Cat in Colchester.
"I took on a pub because I wanted to be my own boss and I had a chance to buy this place freehold. I remember we hit our first-year target within two months - really started with a bang.
"I've only ever called the police once in 25 years. We're a safe and simple pub, just beer and chat."
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Mr Keatley stepped back from running of the pub after the sad death of his wife, Annie, in 2018 but still spends plenty of time at the bar with the regulars.
"We've had Liz Pledge managing the pub since I stepped back, carrying on the brilliant success.
"Obviously it's been a difficult few years with Covid and we're still about 10% down on our pre-Covid levels. But it's been better than expected.
"I've noticed that we used to be rammed on Friday and Saturday but since the pandemic custom seems to be more spread out through the week. And with the big garden out back we've been able to hold up really good.
"I still get a buzz going in."
Liz Pledge, manager of The Fat Cat, added: "I think that before us there wasn't much of a real ale scene in Ipswich, it was a bit niche, but if you can do it well we're proof that the dedication and love is there.
"Customers are such a huge part of our success - we couldn't be here if it wasn't for the regulars and their continuous support. And it's definitely something I noticed during the pandemic, that loyalty and reciprocal relationship, because regulars would show up for takeaway beer out of the front window. They were there.
"And the staff, of course; running a pub is never a one-person thing, it's a bit of everyone.
"I love it, it's why I'm still here after 24 years. The atmosphere here is great and I like feeling I've contributed to people enjoying themselves."
The pub has dropped its prices to celebrate its 10th and 20th anniversaries in 2006 and 2016.