Herts Ad Comment: Why we’re backing pub’s ambitions

PUBLISHED: 18:00 17 August 2017

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks model. Photo: Fraser Whieldon

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks model. Photo: Fraser Whieldon

Archant

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub is a local institution, a celebration of all that is good about pub culture, while also acting as a historical landmark of which we should be proud.

That said, it is also a local business, and needs to make money in order to survive and grow. Who remembers just a matter of years ago when it was rundown and failing? What a transformation the pub has seen since Christo Tofalli took over the lease in April 2012.

He was immediately faced with a huge challenge as everything had to be renewed - electrics, plumbing, the kitchen and the beer lines all had to be renovated.

As a listed building, and officially the oldest pub in Britain, age has taken its toll over the centuries, and there was a lot of back breaking work to do before the pub was up to standard.

Today the multiple award-winning pub offers a fantastic array of beer and a great menu. It is the hub of the local community and yet also extends its reach beyond its immediate area by supporting events like the Meraki Festival and the St Albans Food and Drink Festival.

But the truth of the matter is that for around eight months of the year it struggles to make a profit. That is because the number of covers that can be seated at any one time is always going to be restricted to the space available within the main building, and the garden area is off bounds for a large percentage of the year due to the weather.

Make no mistake, Christo is invested in the Cocks for the long term.

He has thrown everything he has into this business, but also wants to contribute to the future of this heritage site.

His high-spec plans to transform the rear of the pub will not take anything away from its history (and will actually clear up the unsightly rubbish area), but will actually provide him with the chance to extend the amount of covers available during the winter, and finally start to make the business sustainable for the next 100 years.

There’s no suggestion of doing anything to damage the aesthetic qualities of the building at the heart of the pub, or cut into the views of neighbouring residents by extending higher than the current vista.

In fact, everything about this scheme is designed to improve on what currently exists, while remaining sympathetic to its environment.

It is an attempt to turn the substandard garden area into a beautiful harmonious space without extraneous clutter, buildings and appliances which detract from its visual quality.

We firmly believe that it is crucial to maintain Ye Olde Fighting Cocks as a pub selling traditional British fare, rather than see it be bought out and turned into yet another over-priced restaurant serving a choice of world cuisine, and that is why this newspaper is wholeheartedly supporting Christo’s ambitions.

We hope that our influence will sway other key partners within the St Albans community to recognise the importance of this scheme, and to give it their full support to ensure Ye Olde Fighting Cocks continues thriving as a pub for another thousand years. Cheers!

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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