Longest serving landlord in Stevenage celebrates

Gerry McGrath behind the bar at The Poacher

Gerry McGrath behind the bar at The Poacher - Credit: Archant

A MAN believed to be the longest standing landlord in Stevenage is celebrating 20 years running his pub.

Gerry McGrath has run The Poacher in Bedwell Crescent since 1993.

Originally from Sligo in Ireland he left Ireland in 1989 at the age of 22 for a holiday and never returned.

He said: “My plan was to come over for a month’s holiday but I ended up in Norfolk for three months, then St Ives before coming to Stevenage.

“I was working for Scottish Newcastle Breweries as they were looking for holiday cover. I used to do most of the cover for Central London as a relief manager - for a young man this was great fun.”

In 1993 Gerry was asked to come for two weeks to run The Poacher, he arrived on July 5, 1993.

“After three days I rang the Scottish and Newcastle office and asked if they could send me somewhere else,” he said.

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I was then was asked to hang on another three months - it has now been 20 years, so its been a long two weeks.

He said: “The community has taken me to their heart. I am blessed to have a lovely bunch of locals. Over the years we have raised thousands of pounds for local causes with the great support of the local community. We like to keep to local charities as we know where the money is going.”

Gerry lives with his partner Angela Bozier, and son Connor, 17.

“I met my partner Angela after being over here for two years. Her dad is from Cork and we met in the pub. She heard there was a mad Irishman who had taken over.”

The pub was originally called The Gamekeeper but the name was changed in 1982. Gerry brought the freehouse in 2006?

He said: “Having a long serving landlord means stability for the locals. In many pubs they are sending a young chap for two to three months and then moving them on. The locals do not have time to get to know them and build up a relationship.

Although the smoking ban has affected us and we have been hit with the supermarkets selling cheap booze, I feel the stability is a major factor in keeping pubs going.

Regulars will not support the pub unless they know someone is committed to the pub in their community.

You have to keep reinventing yourself. This is where Connor is great as I keeps me up to date with the social media platform. We now have our own app, with loyalty schemes, galleries and pub teams fixtures.

Gordon Brown visited this area twice. On one occasion I was sweeping outside, I was hoping he would have come over for a chat. I would have given him some advice - he would have lasted longer than 3 years.

It is a traditional pub, we do not have a restaurant but have darts and pool teams, sports coverage, live music and hold fundraising events.

“The pub appeals to all age groups. Young fellas come in and I knew them when they were little and we have had and lost some great characters over the years.

I have a great team of staff who will also be celebrating the 20 year anniversary with a 60’s night. I was going to do 1994 prices but can’t afford it.”

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