Ray of hope for Doncaster pubs as microbrewery prepares to re-open village local

Doncaster has been hit by many pub closures in recent years – but a microbrewery is offering a ray of hope by re-opening a village local which residents feared was closed for good.

Gordon Jones, who runs the Don Valley Brewery, in Sandtoft, near Doncaster bought up the Coach and Horses in Barnburgh before the first lockdown last year, after the venue had closed down several years previously.

Doncaster has seen a string of pubs shut down and demolished in recent years, and residents and pub goers were concerned for the future of the High Street local.

But the building is listed by Historic England so could not be demolished.

Gordon Jones, pictured at the Coach and Horses, Barnburgh. Picture: NDFP-02-03-21 CoachHorses 2-NMSY

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Now Mr Jones has nearly completed a programme of repairs and renovations and is hoping to start serving there for the first time in many years this summer when lockdown ends.

Mr Jones, from High Melton, made his name in business running Liberty Guard UK, a company that rented mobile buildings, and went on to take over the brewery.

Now he is buying pubs to sell the beer, and already owns The Cadeby, in Cadeby. He also owns a pub in Sheffield, and is in the process of acquiring one in Snaith.

Gordon Jones, pictured at The Coach and Horses, Barnburgh. Picture: NDFP-02-03-21 CoachHorses 3-NMSY

He bought the Coach and Horses in March and work to transform it has been carried on since then, including repairs to the roof and transforming the interior.

He said: “It had been pretty derelict for a few years, and it is right in the centre of the village.

"A lot of people were worried that it may be knocked down.

"We’ve put it back to being an art deco pub and worked to the rules. I think it’s beautiful.

"I think there are too many pubs around that have been owned by big companies who have not invested in them.”

He does not expect to open in April, when pubs will only be allowed to open outside areas, and is looking more towards May or June, and hopes to have a big opening event.

Gordon said: “It’s going to be a traditional pub, and we'll do real ales. We will do food, but we’ll not be classed as a restaurant. It will be a nice village pub.

"I think we’re lucky to have such a lovely building. It was built in 1937, in the art deco era.”

He thinks supermarket drinks sales have hit pubs, but that demand will come back for traditional drinks, and believe the rise in microbreweries shows that.

"I think there are one or two entrepreneurial people now who have a brewery and a string of pubs, who promote their beers in those pubs.

"And the microbreweries seem to get along with each other, swapping beers, so they can also put someone else’s real ales on in their pubs, and have a variety of different beers.

"I think it's great that quality has come into it, and I think the traditional pub is coming back in that respect.

"The biggest thing we have all been missing over the months of lockdown has been conversation and talking to each other. Pubs are ideal for that.

"But it is a slow change and there are still a lot of pubs getting closed.

"But people who have seen what we are doing here when they have been walking past have been very supportive.

“Also, since we’ve had The Cadeby, on more than one occasion, people have said they moved into the village because it has a pub.”

Mr Jones' brewery, which had previously been based at Mexborough, recently moved to part of his mobile building hire business’ premises in Sandtoft. He said he had invested in new equipment as part of the development, and had introduced a number of new beers.

"We’re not just in this for financial gain,” he said. “I don’t want to lose money on it, but I have another successful business that I’ve been running for 40 years that allows me to get involved with this. But I want to be proud of what we do.”

It is the latest boost to Doncaster’s pubs scene in the last couple of weeks.

Last week, the Free Press revealed there were plans to re-open the Woolpack, at Market Place, as a restaurant and hotel. The same businessman who is looking to re-open the Woolpack is also close to re-opening a new bar and grill in the former Yorkshire Bank building opposite Mansion House.

He has also said he plans to sell locally brewed beer at his venues. And last year Doncaster businessman Dave Aldred revealed plans to open a new pub,

But pubs have been under pressure for the last year, having been forced to close during lockdown.

Many have been relying on Government grants and the furlough scheme to keep going. Some have kept up an income by selling beer, or meals, through their own delivery services.

Ian Round, deputy chairman of the Doncaster branch of the real ale campaign group CAMRA said he thought the recent plans were some cause for optimism, but was concerned that some pubs may not survive the disruption that they have faced due to the lockdown.

"That is something that worries me,” he said. “I don’t know how many will survive this. I’ve been getting my beer delivered through the Hall Cross though, as they have been doing a service with boxed beer.

"I would love to see the Coach and Horses opening again, and it sounds like there is cause for optimism with the Woolpack. Certainly the Coach and Horses is an interesting story.

"I think new pubs that do open are likely to be micropubs, and I’d certainly be happy to see micropubs re-emerge.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.