In the last two months, the new manager of The Riverside in Lechlade has launched a pizza locker, made the decision to ban shots and had to evacuate because of an unexploded grenade.
After running pubs around the area, Gareth Chapman took over the Riverside on April 1 and says it’s ‘the best pub I’ve ever worked in’.
He says: “It’s absolutely beautiful in Lechlade, waking up in the morning and walking along the river are the best mornings.
“It’s a tourist hotspot, so as soon as the sun comes out every table is taken. It’s the first time in a few years I’ve had a buzz from working.”
Since joining, Gareth has made tweaks to the menu and launched the pizza locker in a building attached to the pub: “We’ve been doing fresh pizzas everyday. We did about 700 pizzas in our first few weeks, so it’s gone down really well.”
The pub is an Arkell’s Brewery hostelry, one of the oldest traditional breweries in Britain: “We use Arkells ales in our food – the Mustang Black in our pulled pork burger, the 3B Ale in our fish and chips. We’re also the busiest Arkell’s pub at the moment, which is great news.
“We’re trying to do something different with our menu. They were doing three burgers last year, but we’re now doing eight, with three veggie options.”
The pub hadn’t reopened long after the lockdown before there had to be a forced evacuation: “The police walked in on a Sunday afternoon and I looked at them and said, ‘I definitely didn’t call you guys’. They said we needed to evacuate the pub straightaway.
“There was an unexploded grenade just the other side of the river by the steps that someone had fished out with a magnet.
“We had about 120 people sat in the garden and we had to evacuate them all in a couple of minutes.
“We had to send everyone to the front of the building, issue refunds on people that had ordered food because we couldn’t cook it. We were closed for three hours because the pub was in the 100-metre exclusion zone.
“It’s a unique experience that’s never happened to me in 23 years of being in the industry. I’ve never had a grenade.”
He says the Riverside is a ‘family pub’, and so he made the decision to send all shots back to the brewery and refuses to serve them: “We had a few issues with a few kids who had turned 18 during lockdown.
“I have been coming to this pub for 20 years with my family. I’ve always known it as a family pub and that’s what I want to run.
“If I wanted to run a boozer I would have got a pub in the centre of Swindon.”
He says he has a few events up his sleeve for when restrictions loosen: “I’ve moved into the house next to the pub and my wife and five children are moving over in July too. It’s a long-term plan for me to be here now.
“We’re planning an Ocktoberfest for half term. I’ve spoken to our head brewer about brewing a German beer for us and I’ve said I’ll dress up in lederhosen!”
They also plan on holding a children’s Halloween party and a beer and music festival over Easter.