THE owner of a Broad Chalke pub, which was recently celebrated in the 'UK's top 50 best villages', has spoken to the Journal about debts, success, and the venue's Covid-19 journey.

Ronnie and Candy Butler took over The Queen's Head just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, ready to transform the site despite no experience in the world of pub management.

After other financial difficulties and debts caused, according to Ronnie, by previous staff and tenants, the Covid-19 closure was the last thing the couple wanted.

"The pub was failing and I wanted to solve that problem, I wanted to turn it into a successful pub," Ronnie said.

With a former career in publishing, he said: "I have always been interested in hospitality businesses, from my experience in food and drink, after retiring I always fancied doing something like this and giving something more to the community.

"In 2020 we were just getting the pub up and running and then we were closed. We were never sure how well it would work as it was, we took over with no experience."

Wanting to provide "great food, great beers and just great hospitality", between May and July 2020 the couple spent £60,000 giving the hostelry and garden a makeover, in preparation for its Covid-secure reopening.

During this time the pub also offered a takeaway service to get by and cover some costs.

Salisbury Journal: A casual Saturday afternoon in Broadchalke - Picture by SJ camera club member Adrian HarrisA casual Saturday afternoon in Broadchalke - Picture by SJ camera club member Adrian Harris

Talking about the reopening last summer Ronnie said: "We started to see amazing things, the place was busy and the food was great, but then of course we got closed again.

"We tried and failed over Christmas and closed after three weeks. It was absolutely ridiculous. We just went on during lockdown because we were so committed - we believed in the pub and the community."

Since reopening this year, in line with the hospitality lockdown lift, Ronnie said the business has "just been growing and growing", adding the venue has received "record bookings" in the last two months.

He said: "It's been a huge turnaround for us - there isn't one person who hasn't said 'wow, look what's been done here!'. It goes to show any place can be changed when you work through those demons.

"Our start was apocalyptic and came with debt and we just shut that up. We've now made something for the village.

"Broad Chalke and the community has been so good to us and allowed us to make something special here."

After being mentioned in the UK's top 50 best villages by the Sunday Times, of which Broad Chalke was ranked 18th, Ronnie added: "We must be doing something right!"

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