Gari Newsletter – Aug ’22

On Wednesday 17th August 2022 we reach a significant stage in our happy history – The Garibaldi will’ve been trading as a community pub, run by you, for you, for a full five years! Doubtless to many who have worked within the ‘Friends of the Garibaldi’ group and those who’ve enjoyed our operation ‘only’ as customers will be shocked to hear it, as certainly to myself and many I’ve spoken to ahead of the anniversary it doesn’t feel like anything approaching that long. But they do say the best things in life go so quickly they can pass you by, and it’s important to always appreciate them as they unfold and not take them for granted, especially when they are far from guaranteed to succeed and many clouds loom large on the horizon to threaten any success that has been secured. We in the pub trade know only too well that there is no such thing as certainty, however hard we may work to make and maintain it. There’s no doubt that the 2017 to ’22 period proved to be a noticeably challenging one, but still such an oh-so-worthwhile time to be renewing a local legend such as ‘The Gari’, as it’s become affectionately known to many. And so far folks, so good!

Glancing back over our first half-decade of history at the pub, I’m chiefly reminded of its humble genesis: a disgruntled and disaffected, yet diligent and determined bunch of local punters assembled for the maiden meeting of what was to become known as ‘FOTG’ in January 2017, which had been loosely formed in December 2016 following announcement that the pub’s previous incumbents were to leave their lease early and the owner was seeking permission to pull the pub down in favour of four houses, convinced it had run its course after 150 years trading as a licensed public house. Amateurs with day-jobs though we all were, we were nothing if not united by a love of local pubs and The Gari in particular, which despite falling trade had fostered a keen following among its immediate community – not all threatened pubs are so lucky. We met religiously in the rear room of The White Lion to hatch a plan to recover it, and somehow managed to forge a future for our beloved boozer that set out to prove and happily with the passage of time has proven –

not merely that it was viable as a going concern, but profitable and relevant beyond basic expectations. We sallied-forth on a sound and solemn promise to revitalise it, not just as a ‘proper’ pub, but a community facility. We wanted a traditional, cask-beer-led bar, but augmented by a beautiful garden, and a contemporary inclusive, accessible experience for anyone who wanted to use it and for whatever purpose, beyond just those of us who delight in the drink and that je ne sais quoi best-described as ‘the craic’! I’m humbly hoping you’ll all agree we’ve achieved those aims.

There were numerous ups and downs on the journey though. I was warned by a friend there would be. Many challenges arose of course from external circumstances, but there were inevitable internal tussles too! That’s the nature of a passionate party of people, but ultimately the pub project prevailed as King, regardless of alternative approaches. The planning application was defeated on 15th February 2017, and while the pub had to close its doors on 4th April that year, happily our owner Chris was brought on board with the idea of continuation as a community hub, and with his blessing the hardcore kernel of keenness at the heart of FOTG – now a Community Interest Company, no less – were able to take receipt of the keys on 7th July, and bring the building up to tradeable standards using only community resources so that come 17th August we were serving good beer and cheer, with our inaugural manager, ‘the other Chris’, at the helm! We were all a bit stunned, but somehow we’d harnessed enough practical and moral support among local folk to make it an instant success. The customers came thick and fast! And they seemed to like us! The credit that was – and still is – due for this comes in a truly shared sense; the FOTG’s efforts would’ve come to nought without local regular support from others from the outset.

The reopening was a proud moment for the FOTG, but not as proud as the multitudinous moments of mirth and magic that followed in the ensuing five years have made everyone involved. Our grand reopening party, 7th October 2017; our first community Christmas, December 2017; starting to rejuvenate our wonderful garden, from May 2018; getting our first ‘Good Beer Guide’ entry, September 2018; our first cask beer festival, June 2019; remaining open for off-sales and as a food bank during the Covid-19 pandemic, March 2020 to May 2021; refurbishment, October 2021; the ceremonious ditching of the Covid bar screen, December 2021…! Then there are the innumerable iterations of our regular events like quiz nights, ‘Music Bingo’, ‘Gari-oke’, live music, plus mutually-beneficial liaisons with local businesses such as Bhunny’s, and lately brewery trips and the ‘Forces Fry-ups’… We have become a recognised purveyor of fine, diverse ales, a reliable supporter of major sporting events, and a charitable outward-facing entity, as well as a cosy comfy parlour in which to enjoy chewing the cud. I like to think it’s as close as one can come locally to getting a hug from a pub! Add to all this everyone’s personal recollections of what might just have been routine yet still memorable moments spent there that are special to them, and one starts to get a feel for what actually a local pub can become and what it means to so many who appreciate its auspices beyond the bar. And still one won’t have the full measure of its true importance (we always offer full measures here!).

Finally, I’d like to make particular mention of certain people, past present and future, critical to the establishment and onward effort of maintaining The Gari along the way, and without whose work, time, knowledge and determination we would unquestionably be a lesser project at this milestone in our custodianship of a community cornerstone. So, in no particular order: Chris Soden, Chris Rosario, Cliff Boot, Anna Mumford, Sarah Maye, Steve Churches, Charlie Griswood, Tim Wallis, Jim Howley, Sophy Chapman, Jonathan Essex, Lucy and Duncan Beach, Guy Horsfall, Claire Wicks, Jane Burdge,

Nick Theodossiou, Juliet and Ade Whitmore, The Cannings, Jason and Catherine Barnes, Julie Greene, Alex Ashley, Fran Frost, Geoff Howes, the ‘garden group’, and last but never least our current general manager Shiv Lewis, whose unique mix of innovative ideas, resilient management, business sense and generous spirit has since 17th November 2019 helped us not just meet but drastically exceed expectations, especially in keeping us open in one way or another through the darkest doldrums of Covid. Wider appreciation goes to each and everyone who has supported us in any way along the journey to now, and we heartily hope that you feel able and willing to do so in our next five years and – who knows – well-beyond!

Staff Updates:

  • Well done Guy for becoming Assistant Manager.
  • Congratulations to Claire for obtaining her Personal Licence.
  • A warm welcome to Tracey who started working with us this month. Finally we’d like to wish Nick a Happy 18th Birthday.

Our Crowdfunder is now live!