Pubpaper 722 – The Cross Keys, Siddal

Posted: 18th August 2013 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

In mid 2012, Hugh Kirby and Ruth Dunsmore were looking for somewhere to live in Calderdale, what they found was the Cross Keys at Siddal.   You couldn’t say it was love at first sight, the pub which had been closed by Admiral Taverns showed the jewellery of a typical PubCo property.  The satellite dish on the wall, Sky Sports banners dominating the exterior and an interior peppered with televisions and fruit machines was not their idea of a pub, but what it had was the space and potential to become “a proper local boozer”.

The traditional layout of bar, snug and tap room with upstairs accommodation ticked the boxes for a man who had spent most of his adult life working the licenced trade.  Hugh became the youngest licensee in Kirklees at the age of 19 and spent the next 15 years running various bars and pubs for other companies until taking a break from the industry in 2004.  However the trade came calling again in 2010 with a chance to buy into a local small brewery..  Initially working on the commercial side, he was soon getting involved with production and delivery, bringing him that essential access to landlords to increase sales.   Over the next few years things changed within the business and Hugh decided to move on.  It was this that led to Ruth buying the Cross Keys.

They had always joked about running a pub, but the Cross Keys, which was within the budget for a house still needed much consideration, but after three viewings they decided to rescue the pub from the evil empire.  The work to get the pub to their standards was no small task.  The bar had one solitary hand pump on the bar which had been ignored much of time on a bar dominated by PubCo keg products.  As with all closed ex pub company locals, it suffered from lack of investment, this poor maintenance and the effect of being shuttered up showed.

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After a major clean up they removed all the pub company trappings and stripped the pub back to basics. Now to put their stamp on the place, first to come in was 6 hand pumps, essential to a real ale pub.  They had a simple idea “A good honest pub for people who simply want to relax and enjoy themselves”.  The TV’s remained in the skip and the fruit machines never returned.  They changed the product selection supplementing the real ales with quality alternatives for the non ale drinker.  Peroni, Warsteiner, Kingstone Press and Kaltenburg replaced the standard offerings and quality bottled beers were offered in addition to a choice of good wines. Food is limited to top quality pork pies as per the good honest boozer ethos.

Now they had the right beer, they needed to attract the right people.  The pub had a checkered past and the beers were selected to target the right customer.  Once people saw the offering of quality lagers and cider, they could make up their own mind.  Quickly the venue became popular with local drinkers and wider afield as word of mouth spread about the pub being the home for good beers and a welcoming door.

All this would not have been possible without Ruth who is the powerhouse behind the scenes dealing with the administration whilst Hugh manages the front of house.  It is this key partnership between them which makes the business work as well as it does.  The pub manages that balance of catering for responsible families who just want to relax over a few beers with the needs of drinkers who come to escape children for a few hours.   The new beer garden has a climbing tower for the children, but plenty of room for other drinkers to sit and sup their beer in peace.  There is a chest of toys, but it is placed out the way in the snug.  The bar area is still the reserve of the adult drinkers as it should be.

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The pub has promoted itself little, only advertising in PubPaper and via banners.  However this didn’t stop their first beer festival in August being a massive success.  Over 3 days they sold an average of 1350 pints daily.  The 3000 pints of ale, 560 pints of cider and 608 pints of lager sold raised £2400 for charity.

And the future, the main bar is to be sympathetically re-designed with a view to fitting 4 more hand pumps making a total of 10 hand pumps in total and two bedrooms are being added to be let out to guests, after that a small 2 line brewing plant is planned for the outhouse at the rear.  After wildly exceeding all expectations from 9 months ago, these plans will be the icing on what is a rather good cake already.  But central will always be the ethos “good beer for good people”.