Couple call time after 35 years running pub

May 26 2021
Couple call time after 35 years running pub

THE couple who have run The Britannia Inn on Bath Road, Wells, for 35 years are preparing to call time on their pub careers.

Rob and Karen Rouse will be pulling pints and serving their home-cooked meals for the last time on Sunday, June 20. They have decided that the time is right to retire, and are now looking forward to spending more time with their grandchildren.

“We’ve got mixed feelings about going,” said Rob.

“It’s been our whole life for 35 years. When you live on the premises as well you literally live, eat and breathe, and drink, it.”

He said The Britannia – affectionately known as The Brit – was “very tired” when they took it over in 1986, with orange plastic seats and fraying purple stair carpet fixed to the floor. Over the years they have changed the decor, installed false beams to give the lounge more character, built a function room with a skittle alley, added a pets corner for families, and most recently invested in sturdy gazebos when al fresco eating and drinking was being encouraged.

The pub is now home to ten skittles teams and two pool teams, hosts meetings of Gorgons Carnival Club and Wells Carnival committee, hosts Royal Air Force Association meetings and lunches, hosts and supports Mid Somerset hockey teams, and supports Horrington Cricket Club. A charity committee that was set up at the pub has raised thousands of pounds for good causes with the help of the locals, and the pub has regularly won prizes in the Wells in Bloom competition for its colourful window box displays.

Rob said it is the community spirit that he will remember most: “We’ve hosted fetes, we’ve hosted entertainment nights, we’ve hosted quiz nights and bingo nights. We’ve raised thousands of pounds over the years.

“We decided early on that we didn’t want to try and turn The Britannia into a restaurant. We didn’t want it to be a gastro pub. We felt that our future was being part of the community, a traditional community pub.

“We’ve had some great party nights with the locals. We’ve seen their children grow up. We’ve done their christenings. We’ve done their children’s engagement parties and their 21st birthdays. It’s been lovely. It’s been a privilege being a part of it all.”

The Britannia is owned by Wellington Pub Company, and a number of people have already registered their interest in taking over, though the appointment process takes time so the pub may be closed temporarily.

Rob said that running a pub has become harder and harder over the last few years, and that there is great pressure with the overheads and the competition from the internet, from supermarkets and from larger corporate operators.

He said: “It takes its toll on the independents. We haven’t got the economies of scale, we haven’t got the buying power that the coporates have. But you have to try and make up for that in other ways – with quality of service, just giving local people a community pub.

“We’re going to miss the community of Wells and wish all our friends and customers a safe, happy and healthy future.”