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Ever wonder how we became publicans?

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Welcome back!

You have returned, so we have sparked a little interest. Many people ask how we came to the Black River Inn, and so here is the story of our beginnings here in Black Torrington.

We started our pub life when Alex and I were offered employment in a village pub. The owners were searching for high-end dining and accommodation, and with a background in weddings, functions, AA 4 star hotels and Alex’s huge achievements in terms of chef, and food levels we soon became a management couple here and took the menu and dining

offering to 2 AA rosettes and 5 star accommodation as well as high recommendation and the beginnings of what could’ve been a great road to success.

This ‘high’ was not long lived as due to a change in personal circumstances, the owners

decided it was time to sell. One fine day we showed up to work, only to receive a barrage of questions from locals at the bar asking about the pub sale. Yep, we hadn’t been told by the owners, it had been put on the market without our knowledge. A genuine feeling of dishonesty was felt not just by us but also by the village, and locals as the owners were

on a long holiday abroad when this all came out. Coincidence? We have always gone over this, trivial as it may seem, and still have never quite decided what we think. In fact, I think it was after a telephone discussion with both sets of parents; both of whom said, ‘well surely this is a good thing, why don’t you two buy it?’ There you have it, the scene was set.

The story of the pub purchase, is very long, and very turbulent, but in short….we began negotiations with our then boss to buy the pub he was selling. An offer was accepted, and the mortgage approved, but then a few complications in terms of missing legalities and a few anomalies forced us to step back from this sale, as the mortgage company wouldn’t lend

without them. The path then led us to offers and negotiations of other public houses, in fact I don’t think there was a pub that was for sale, that Alex and I didn’t frequent, seek out or look at; a fantastic excuse to ‘go for a drink’, not that any of us ever really need an excuse!

After another failed sale agreement on a different property; we were genuinely at wits end. Our working relationship with our boss had as good as worn itself out, and we had no option but to hand our notices in, in a bid to free ourselves of the unhealthy working relationship that had commenced to be a regular thing, but also to allow us to be more focused and

have the time to find our own place. It was in the last few weeks of working out our notice, that a supplier came in to look at the coffee machine, that we came to find the Black River Inn (it was then called the Torridge Inn).

We aren’t going to bore you all with too many of the purchase details; let’s be honest they say buying a house is one of the hardest things you can do, well buying a commercial property probably took us to some of the longest periods of sleepless nights, stress and

emotional turmoil. Eventually we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the business plan we had initially written over Christmas 2017 started to become more of a reality. We spent days walking our then dog Oakley, and bouncing around ideas, menus, operating procedures. Evenings sat in front of the tele working on logos, slogans, staff

employment contracts, budgets for the bar and kitchen, menus and much more.

- logo trials and budgeting

The anticipation, while the lawyers do what they do is nerve-racking, but when you have been unemployed for nearly 6 months, small part-time work doesn’t really pay the bills.

Trying to balance a little bit of income, while having solicitors meetings, bank manager calls, and meeting new suppliers, was a day-to-day reality for the first quarter of 2018. Without a pub as yet, we even had our new brewery rep come to our little cottage in Dolton; little is a pretty accurate description, there was just about room to swing a cat. We followed this with meeting our new main food supplier rep at a local pub as we had learnt (from the brewery meeting) our cottage just wasn’t suitable. It was a Monday at the beginning of May 2018 that we were playing pool at the Royal Oak in Dolton and just biding our time when our solicitor called to advise that all things going to plan, and if we could get an agreement with the neighbour for the flying freehold on the pub, we could look at exchange and completion on the 1st June. I don’t think Alex has ever moved so quickly. He was out and back to

Black Torrington in a flash to get this sorted.

On Thursday 31 May just at the close of office, we received confirmation that exchange had happened and completion would be by lunchtime on 1 June. We did celebrate this (of course), but had to get through the rest of our shift, having both been at work at the time of the call first. Once home, after work festivities commenced and the lasting memory is of

sitting on the floor with friends drinking rum! Let’s be honest, it had been a really long time coming, when we remember, we had first tried to buy a pub back in summer 2017.

Friday 1 June, the call came through at 10am. We were pub owners! To the our then local, we went.

A meeting to collect the keys was arranged for early afternoon at the Torridge Inn. Keys in hands to our own pub we opened the doors and walked into what would soon be The Black River Inn.

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Jul 14, 2023

Proud to supply you too. Always been a discerning chef using truly local produce


It was Doltons loss and obviously not meant to be. Your both great people and very hard working, you both deserve all praise. Love Dee Davey x

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