Meet the Regional Advisor: insights from Nigel Williams PiTH advisor for Derbyshire and the North

Posted on:

Pub is The Hub’s wonderful team of regional advisors continue to help great publicans to diversify and provide local services.

In the third in our regular series putting a spotlight on our advisors, we learn more about advisor Nigel’s industry background, his experiences with pub diversification projects, tips for publicans looking to diversify and his thoughts on pubs

What region do you cover as a regional advisor?  Yorkshire, Derbyshire and the North East, including Northumberland.    

Background in pub industry From university (where I ran the college bar) I joined Whitbread and became a managed house area manager. I later worked for Vaux and Allied Breweries (Joshua Tetley) in managed, tenanted and leasehold divisions. I left Allied to set up my own small group of pubs – Just Williams Pubs in Sheffield, which I ran until I retired in 2014. As a publican I spent three years as President of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Association (FLVA) and later was Yorkshire chair and trustee for the BII. In retirement I was also non-exec chair of an independent Sheffield brewery company.

Involvement with Pub is The Hub I have been an advisor with Pub is The Hub for five years and have consulted on a variety of different community services projects.

What do you love most about pubs and publicans? Good publicans, who run successful pubs, bring a multitude of skills together to create an environment that meets the needs of local people, which also often reaches out to customers away from the immediate community. These publicans are team players, which to me means they establish a team around them which comprises their staff team and the main elements of their local community. My favourite pubs are the ones I can visit and feed off the environment, the atmosphere and the people, and if all that is right it’s amazing how good the drink or food tastes.

Highlight projects:  The Green Dragon, Exelby, North Yorkshire,

The result of a broadly talented community committee who against the odds pressed on and purchased the pub from a major pubco. This community-owned village pub was remodeled and refurnished to include a cafe and shop and has become a thriving hub of the village. It now attracts villagers who would never have considered visiting before. The success is a testament to the committee, the tenants and the involvement of the villagers.

The Star, Harbottle, Northumberland –

This was a small freehouse, in an isolated village in Northumberland, whose new owners could see the potential of building on some existing practices and further developing other parts of the premises. The first project was to revamp an area, already used as a newspaper shop, to create a new community shop, which still sells newspapers and delivers them to isolated farms, but also sells a range of household staples, like bakery, dairy and butchery products supplied by other local businesses and farms.

Villagers are also able to order online from the suppliers’ full ranges for purchase and collection from the pub shop.

In addition, a small coffee shop was created, so parents on the village school run from outlying farms have an opportunity to meet other neighbours somewhere other than at the school gate.

A great example of an inspired publican who values the role of the pub in their local area and who works hard to deliver the best services and facilities to a tight knit isolated community.

The Bosville Arms, Rudston, East Yorkshire –

Another community purchase seen through by a committee of diverse talents. The pub had been closed for several years, by the time it was purchased by the community, and so a full refurbishment was required. This was planned with the needs of people in the local area in mind and included a coffee lounge which PiTH helped equip through a grant from its Community Services Fund.

The refurbishment was completed to a high standard and the finishing touches were managed by newly appointed and well-experienced tenant publicans, who have been able to entice customers from Rudston and nearby villages back into the pub. Success has been achieved by the combination of the talented community committee, an experienced publican and the support of the wider community.

Projects you delivered since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the key impacts they have had?

The Star, Harbottle, was given a complete refurb during the pandemic and added a takeaway pizza operation to its facilities. PiTH helped with the set up and equipping the pizza operation, which has proved to be a massive success and a welcome addition to people living in the local area, with the village eight miles from the nearest small town. It has been a focal point for the community and boosted trade at the pub which helps secure its future.

The Bosville Arms, Rudston, was completed during the lockdown period and was ready to open when the first lockdown was lifted. The newness of everything was an added attraction to get old customers to return to the pub to see what had happened and established a target date to complete the refurbishment work.

Proudest moment as a PiTH advisor?

Both The Green Dragon and The Star have been recognised by local awards and The Star was also recognised for its delivery scheme during lockdown as a BII Community Champion. The Green Dragon bought an old milk float to deliver food and drink around the village.

Key tips for publicans looking to diversify their pub’s services?

  • Really get to know and understand the needs of people living in your local community.
  • Carefully assess how you could meet some of these needs and be sure it is within your capabilities to provide what you decide on.
  • Get the support of local residents and enlist help from the parish council where possible.
  • Discuss any project with your landlord, if appropriate, and enlist their support – financial if possible.
  • Involve local tradespeople and businesses.
  • Check if you need local planning or licensing approval for any alterations to you premises.
  • Contact Pub is The Hub for advice and possible support.

What do you enjoy about being a PiTH advisor? I enjoy any opportunity to be involved with community, so the chance to help a pub become the hub of a community gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Working with community groups, comprising many varied talents, can bring some really interesting conclusions and a real comparison with the corporate projects I have worked on during my career.

Working with talented publicans is a real pleasure and I like it best when I have to keep up with their pace of work and creativity.

When a project comes to completion and it has been the result of creative thinking, proactive management and community involvement I get a real buzz.