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Two families in a Suffolk village unite to bring their dilapidated local pub back to life

PUBLISHED: 17:07 12 November 2018

Manager of the Brewers pub, Jake Bennett-Day, and the head chef, Dan Russell, with the two families from the village who have bought the pub – James Austin and his wife, Zos Austin on the left and Martin and Sheona Fraser on the right.

Manager of the Brewers pub, Jake Bennett-Day, and the head chef, Dan Russell, with the two families from the village who have bought the pub – James Austin and his wife, Zos Austin on the left and Martin and Sheona Fraser on the right.

Archant

Restoring a village pub that was once John Peel’s favourite watering hole has been a labour of love for two families in Rattlesden, who couldn’t bear to see their local pub falling into a state of disrepair.

The state of the Brewers three months ago, with ivy creeping up the wallsThe state of the Brewers three months ago, with ivy creeping up the walls

John Peel was a frequent visitor to the Brewers pub in the 1990s, which back then used to be known as the Brewers Arms.

Back then, under Greene King’s ownership, it was a thriving village pub with a fine reputation for its grub, according to James Austin, who has lived for the last 30 years in Rattlesden with his wife Zos Austin.

But for the last seven years, the Brewers has seen a steady series of tenants come and go - one of whom reportedly only stayed for three weeks - and the Brewers finally ceased trading altogether earlier this year.

That was when Mr and Mrs Austin clubbed together with another Rattlesden family, Sheona Fraser and Martin Lang, to save their favourite pub.

The Brewers pub in Rattlesden. Picture: James AustinThe Brewers pub in Rattlesden. Picture: James Austin

None had any experience in the pub trade - Ms Fraser is a physiotherapist by training who now runs a kitchen and bathroom company with Mr Lang, Mr Austin is a partner at Birkitts law firm, and Mrs Austin is head of sixth form at Ipswich School.

But what they lacked in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm.

“Perhaps it was a moment of insanity,” joked Mr Austin. “It’s our way of giving something back.

“If someone hadn’t done something, the pub would have just collapsed and it’s such a lovely Georgian building, right in the middle of the village, that it would have been a crying shame, especially as we had spent many a happy evening in the Brewers.

“We decided to see if we could give it one last go as a pub providing good quality local food, so far as possible employing people from the village and its surrounding area.”

With the help of local tradesmen, the two couples then had the difficult task of spending two months pulling ivy from the ceilings of the dilapidated building, in order to bring it back up to a usable state. “There was not even a teaspoon in the place when we bought it at the end of July,” said Mr Austin. “Although it’s a lovely old building, the pub was in a very sad state, with ivy all over the place, peeling paint and the signs of no TLC for many years.”

Although the Brewers is not the only pub in Rattlesden, Mr Austin says the village’s other pub, The Five Bells is not the enemy by any means.

“The Five Bells is a great little drinking pub while ours is focused on food, so we are not treading on each other’s toes because our offerings are quite different,” said Mr Austin. “Debbie, the landlord there, is our greatest supporter - it works better if we work together.”

Mr Austin is well aware that in order to be able to survive in a stormy economic climate for village pubs, theirs has to be able to cater to people outside of the village too.

“We want to be able to sell the village as a destination,” he explained. “We know that we are saving a village pub at a time when so many are disappearing fast.

“We have only been open for less than a month, but so far so good, with lots of local support.”

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