This will be a sad Boxing Day today for me as I take my leave of my local watering hole after 30 plus years. The Black Boy in Milton is closing after today.
I have lost track of the number of landlords this pub has had since I came to Adderbury in 1984 but it has been quite a few! You may be surprised that I choose a pub in a neighbouring village rather than one of the four in Adderbury but the Black Boy suits me and it welcome our Jack Russell, Coco, as well. The first landlord I remember specialised in sausages with a long list of them in all imaginable formats. Sadly, he got caught up in a banking boom and bust and, having borrowed heavily to finance some improvements, found himself with unaffordable repayments and fled, leaving a set of kitchen knives on the bar to demonstrate his feelings for the bank!
There have been a string of others since with varying terms and levels of success. The most memorable was Marco Pierre-White who was determined to close it as a village pub and turn it into a smart eaterie for his London friends. This enterprise failed but only after he had decimated the bar, refused to serve lager and filled the place with alien and strange decorations. After his exit, Pete Strickland and Catriona McConnachie took on the Black Boy and they worked hard to make a success of it. They put back the bar, welcomed dogs, families and children, provided very good food at sensible prices and made everyone feel welcome. In fact they returned the Black Boy to what most of us wanted – a good local village pub.
Sadly, it has not worked for them and they feel they cannot make it viable. They blame:
- the closure of the Milton Road to through traffic for a while and
- the high cost of business rates.
I would add to this the minimum wage increases, the costs of holiday pay and other emp-loyment red tape which suffocates small businesses and the growing burden of ‘elf & safety rules and food safety regulations. In fact all the pressures that make it harder and harder for small businesses to survive and provide a living for their owners.
Sadly some of the Milton villagers have taken against the landlords and are getting up a petition. Quite how this can turn an apparently unprofitable venture back into a profitable one, I do not know and I will not sign it.
I hope someone will come along with the enterprise that Pete and Catriona showed in their time and something extra that makes the Black Boy thrive. Until then, I suspect I will be having my weekend pint at home which is a shame.