Nothing lasts forever, but at the same time, over 1,200 years of history isn’t something you necessarily want to toss down the drain. And so, last month, when Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St. Albans — one of several pubs that claims to be the oldest in England — announced it had filed for bankruptcy and was shutting its doors, the overarching sentiment was that someone would come and save the establishment that traces its history back to 793 AD.
Britain’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, is not closing
At the time, Mitchells and Butlers — the large British pub group that controls the lease to the premises — said they hoped the Hertfordshire pub would reopen at some point. It turns out that some point was Monday, 4 April.
Martin Robinson, a former manager of the pub, and Ian Baulsh, the most recent head chef, along with a third investor, Sam Walker, have agreed to a deal to take over the lease. The new ownership group said they hope some menu changes (including regularly changing specials, a kids’ menu, and an extensive barbecue area in the pub’s garden) will help revive the business along with live music events and summer “Fighters’ Festivals.”
“I have worked here for 12 years as the manager, so I have a clear vision of how to ensure the future success of this pub,” Robinson stated. “Ian has been head chef for the past eight years and is excited to share the pub’s new menus and his food strategy going forward. Sam brings a talent for aesthetics and design which will help us to enhance our customer experience, while retaining all the wonderful features of its rich history.”
Mitchells and Butlers also chimed in to give their backing to the new landlords (as Brits refer to people who run a pub). “We are delighted that Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is so quickly under new ownership, of which we are fully supportive,” the company said, according to the BBC.
Even the former landlord Christo Tofalli gave his support to the new owners. “I know 100 percent that they will put their heart and soul into keeping Ye Olde Fighting Cocks at the centre of the St. Albans community, as well as attracting visitors from all over the world to experience the kind of hospitality that you can only get at Britain’s oldest pub,” he posted to the pub’s Facebook page on Friday. “We have all been working tirelessly to make sure the right team went in, and indeed this has happened.”
However, the publicity the pub received for closing also brought another tidbit to light: Though Ye Olde Fighting Cocks once held the world record for oldest British pub, according to the BBC, Guinness World Records said this particular record was “rested in 2000 when it became clear that it was not possible to verify it in full.” Perhaps it’s a relief — otherwise we’d be stuck debating the technicality of whether Ye Olde Fighting Cocks deserves to hold that title after closing for a couple of months.
This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com
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