Last orders for Kersey Bell landladies after seven 'amazing' years
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
The sisters in charge of the Bell Inn, in Kersey, will pull their last pints behind the bar at the end of November, after seven years in charge of the pub.
Janet Woollard said: "It's been amazing. We're very lucky to have been part of the village and the community but we just felt that with the lease coming to an end, it was time to step back."
Working out the rules around lockdowns and restrictions has challenged Janet and sister Wendy Gray over the past two years - but even when allowed to open things weren't smooth sailing at the 14th century village pub.
Mrs Woollard continued: "Covid has been hard. There were some spells we got along okay, but some decisions were harder.
"The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was a challenge; we turned hundreds of people away but then we'd have no customers at the weekends because they'd all gone out at the start of the week.
"And then when we were allowed to open outdoor dining again it was freezing! I don't think they thought about the way the weather would be in April. We were out there with hot water bottles.
"But we managed to get through it, which we know not everyone did."
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The sisters took on the pub in 2014, arriving "totally green".
Two of the members of staff that showed them the ropes still work behind the bar today and Mrs Woollard says the team often laughs at how she and her sister "must've looked like we didn't have a clue" in their first few months.
But seven years on and the Bell Inn regulars have made it clear that their landladies will be much-missed.
They personally informed residents of Kersey and neighbours to the pub that they'd be leaving at the end of November - and there were protests and tears to contend with.
It's sad, Mrs Woollard said, but the response has shown them how much they've earned the respect of the village. On social media, there are more than 50 comments made on the post where the duo announced their final day, sharing fond memories and wishing them well.
Speaking about the atmosphere they've tried to create, she said: "The pub is such a lovely place. Nobody feels uncomfortable when they walk in, there's always a friendly face to say hello and be inviting.
"We like to think that if you've got good news we're here to celebrate with you and if you're sad we're here to hold your hand and probably cry alongside you. It's all about the people. And sometimes the dogs, we get plenty of those popping in to say hi."
Running a pub is always hard work though, as well the sisters know. They even draft in the help of their other sister who comes from London to help on weekends, it gets so busy.
But as last orders ring out on November 28 - probably in front of a very busy bar for a Sunday night - there'll be a mix of emotions. It's been an "amazing" seven years, with "so many memories" but there may be a few good bits about saying goodbye.
"I think I'm just looking forward to a rest. It's not just the opening times we work; we start between 7am and 8am and probably don't get home until past 11pm.
"Even when we're shut, we're not really shut; my sister and I are here ordering items or planning for the next few days.
"I'm staying in the village though, so it'll probably be strange seeing how someone else runs it. I might have to stay away for a while and then sneak in one day to see what I think!"