Save “The Owl” At Rodley

IMAG0111

Another pub at the heart of a community faces closure. Mark Whittle (@markvsmedia) visits The Owl in Rodley …

It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon and as I sit outside sipping on an ice-cold beer at The Owl in Rodley there’s no indication from the staff or patrons that anything is wrong and that the pub and the family who run it are actually in the midst of a battle for survival. Well, scratch that, it’s actually a pretty cloudy morning and I’m sat inside with a coffee but the important thing remains the same, to the everyday customer everything seems fine in The Owl.

Fay: Gina’s just doing what comes naturally – she’s not going to give her customers any less because of what’s going on.

I’m here to talk to Elaine Keith, Fay Goodliffe and Natalie Ross, three key figures behind the Save the Owl @ Rodley campaign. Gina and her family have run The Owl for 6 years but due to a lengthy ongoing dispute with building owners Enterprise Inns they’ve decided that there’s no option left for them but to leave. A blog post on their website let customers know that The Owl would be closing its doors on Sunday 2nd June, its future uncertain.

IMAG0105

Elaine: It came as such a surprise to everyone because nobody suspected that there were any issues, that this wasn’t a thriving, good business especially given the volume of customers – the volume of beer we drink alone should be enough to keep it going!

Natalie: What’s happened is that they’ve done a rent review and are putting it up by 45%, plus they’re putting fines in for them buying beer outside of the tie-in deal. They’re are happy to hold their hands up to the beer issue but the way they’ve calculated these fines is by monitoring the liquid that goes through the lines – how do you distinguish between water and beer? They clean their lines regularly because they’re a good pub and they feel that the fines are going to be unfair because of this.

Fay: The news whipped around like wildfire as you’d expect. We were actually really upset, it sounds dramatic to say that but we were.

In this era of chain pubs and bars The Owl stands out both through its sense of independence and the way in which the local community look upon it and those who run it, when they found out the situation Gina and her family were facing they refused to stand idly by. Taking to social media with the Save the Owl @ Rodley Facebook group they spread the news further and offered a space for patrons to express support and share their stories.

IMAG0114

Fay: When we started the group we thought it would just be our friends but it’s taken no effort from us to get people involved.

Natalie: Originally the group was about showing how much we loved them because the tone of the blog was that they’d given up. We just wanted to let them know how much they meant to us before they had to go.

The group was launched on Wednesday 15th May and as of today has over 2400 members. The unexpected support gave renewed hope to the beleaguered owners.

Natalie: Steve, Gina’s son, came over to us on Thursday and said when he’d put that blog up on Monday they’d given up, fought all they could. Now they’ve seen how much support they’ve got and how much the local community care about them their fight is back and they’re doing all they can.

It’s at this point that Gina bursts out of the kitchen to give Elaine, Faye and Natalie the latest news on what’s been happening. With her energy and positivity it’s plain to see why people have been so keen to get behind Gina’s cause. Before plunging back to the Sunday carvery preparations she makes sure the campaigners will be able keep their strength up by providing a free lunch for them all.

IMAG0112

Elaine: She’s created such an amazing atmosphere. It’s a really accessible pub that caters for so many different people. Everything she gets in is from the local community so it’s a symbiotic link with businesses in the area; it’s not just about this place. If you ever wanted to see the ideal of what a local pub should be this is it.

In many ways this is an issue that goes beyond The Owl, many local pub owners are facing similar situations to Gina and her family. Save the Owl @ Rodley are heavily involved with other campaigns such as ‘Fair Deal For Your Local’ and with visits from local MPs, councillors, press and radio stations it seems that that this fight is far from over, although no response from Enterprise Inns has yet been received.

This is only my third visit to The Owl since I’ve moved to Leeds but such is the atmosphere of the place and the enthusiasm of its supporters that it’s hard not to feel instantly part of this tight-knit community. This is clearly a very special pub and its patrons rightly feel both proud and protective of it. Gina and her family have a tough battle on their hands but they’ll fight on knowing that they have thousands of friends standing beside them.

If you want to get involved then there’s no shortage of action you can take. Join the Facebook group to see the full action plan and what you can do to show your support.

35 comments

  1. The pub is terrible. All this talk of a great community pub, my arse. The place smell like rancid school dinners when they are providing ‘food’ the beer tastes like it’s been passed through the bowel of a rotting camel. And the times I’ve been in the locals ended up fighting between themselves in the tap room. At the end of the day enterprise are not shutting this pub the people who run the place have decided there is not enough profit anymore. To be honest if you’ve only visited this pub 3 times count yourself lucky.

    1. I think you may have missed the point here Mark. I’ve never seen a fight in there although I don’t tend to go in the tap room and I had Sunday lunch there today.

          1. What a flacid attack from both of you, I’m almost yawning.

            I have never seen fights in the Owl, we’re not saying it’s a palace, it does good honest food and personally I’ve never had a bad pint. It has 10% off for Camra members and encourages people to try the beer before they buy. There is a huge variation in the people that go but they get a warm welcome when they do. Community groups are positively encouraged and suppliers are kept local obviously.

            The reason the licensees are leaving is because Enterprise are trying to impose unreasonable conditions and haven’t held up their side of previous agreements in terms of maintenance of the place. It’s almost like you’ve posted before you know your facts isn’t it.

            By the way, you may want to try capitalisation, punctation and spelling as a little learning exercise for yourselves this week before accusing others of being inbred.

          1. Never said the 2.5k people were not allowed to disagree with me. However, in my opinion the place is terrible. As for real ale I presume you’re a fan of rodent urine.

    2. I’d love to hear your suggestion of where is a better local boozer. It must be bloody fantastic if it’s better than The Owl. You are wrong of course on all accounts.

      1. Erm the railway? Of course I am correct on all counts. You have no recourse as your original statement has no substantiation. You can look the long word up in a dictionary x

        1. The Railway is a great pub of course it is and no-one disputes that. However, I’d argue with your self declared statement that you are correct on all counts, given your original post was clearly an expressed opinion. We’re not saying the rest of the pubs aren’t great, I think you are missing the point.

          The locals happen to love the Owl, in part because it has been turned around in the last six years, the licensees are welcoming and work really hard.

          Please don’t assume our level of knowledge, this is after all the internet and you don’t know who you’re talking to, I completely understand what substantiation is. I also understand you’re probably shaking hands with the unemployed right now.

          Language is such a fun thing, isn’t it…..now run along….

        2. The railway is a great pub? Never heard something so ridiculous! The landlord is miserable, I’ve never had service with a smile…you are lucky to even be greeted with a simple hello!! I visited the railway recently on a Tuesday evening around 8pm I bought a drink, sat down then within five minutes the landlord more or less asked us to leave as he was closing early, I was mortified that is not how you run a pub!!!

    3. Thank you for your comment and I’m sorry if you feel you’ve had a bad experience in the Owl.

      We live in a democracy and we’re all entitled to express our opinions, as many people have done through the Facebook group, in person and through review sites such as Trip Advisor, Qype and Google.

      We’re fighting for something that we believe in and would doubt very much that we would have found such support from so many other customers, local businesses (including other pubs), CAMRA and local politicians if your views were reflective of the overwhelming majority of people.

      To paraphrase someone very logical – the opinions of the many outweigh the opinions of the few (or the one)!

      I hope you find (or have found) a local pub that you enjoy as much as we enjoy ours.

    4. Anyone else think mark, steve and youdecideyourfuture are one and the same? Someone a little embittered with a thesauraus tab open? I thought it seemed like a bit of a vicious (but uninformed attack) to post within 10 minutes of the article. Someone with a axe to grind?

      1. I suspect he/they may have been barred for trying to get served under-age recently 😉

    5. Mark

      Not sure where you are coming from. I live opposite the pub and have been 100s of pubs all over the uk and this is a great pub. The beer is renowned , and has won many awards in this respect. The food is solid pub food, and I have never ever seen and fights or aggression in either bar.

  2. Oh dear not making as much cash as you hoped? Time to jump ship and blame the horrible corporation that you were all too happy to serve whilst it suited you.

    1. Good lord. Go and look up a few facts about the changing pub trade in this country. See if you can wrap your little grey cells around the closures of so many local pubs. No-one is saying the Owl is perfect, if you don’t like the food or beer, go somewhere else, tastes differ (of course I think you’re wrong).

      Is it totally beyond your comprehension that there is a wider issue here? It is not for nothing that there is a Parlimentary Save the Pub Group and that several MPs in the local area are now involved in this fight.

      It is not just the closure of a pub that is involved here, there is the impact to the local community and of course businesses. Frankly it takes more effort and sense to support something positive these days, so some people would just rather tear something down on the faceless internet to make themselve feel a little powerful. You’re an idiot.

  3. Lovely post in support of a lovely pub. Having “rediscovered” The Owl recently after abandoning another establishment which has lost it’s community spirit, The Owl represents everything a good pub should be; really welcoming atmosphere, hub of the community whilst still embracing newcomers. Had some lovely chat with regulars when we were in a couple of weeks ago. So sad to hear this story. Hope you succeed in Saving The Owl.

  4. @Mark, whilst I know I shouldn’t rise to the bait of someone who is clearly an Internet troll, I find I am unable to resist.

    As was pointed out earlier, 2500 people have expressed their positive opinion about the finest community pub I have ever had the pleasure of frequenting.

    In statistics there is the concept of discarding the outliers. In your case I have to have point out that your view is clearly coming from the bell-end of the curve.

  5. Odd comments from the detractors on this blog. They appear to be describing the pub as it was before Gina took over.

    @Mark, when did you last visit the pub? If it was recently, then you clearly live under a bridge, go look elsewhere for your billy goats. Free speech notwithstanding, trying to contradict 2,500 people makes you look rather silly.

  6. While we understand that passions can run high about this sort of thing it has been brought to my attention that comments on both sides have been not in keeping with the usual and expected tone of the Culture Vulture.

    We don’t have any toleration for snearing, snarkiness or insult. No matter if you are right in your position, defend it intelligently and in the spirit of critical friendship or don’t defend it at all.

    Any further comments from any party that we think aren’t suitable will be dealt with.

    Keep it civilised. (Ed.)

  7. Quite honestly I loved the pub. There’s a team of about 25 that work there, including myself, and they’re all like family. The customers are so diverse and you’re felt welcomed immediately.

    Ali, who is a regular customer of the Owl and a big character in the community (she owns and runs the Card shop in Farsley) put a comment on the facebook group that said it all really….

    ‘the Owl isn’t just my local, I don’t just drink here it is also a source of income for my business due to all the parties, weddings and christenings. If the Owl closes it will have a massive impact on my business and many local businesses will be effected, not just mine but Bentleys butchers, Sutcliffe’s green grocers, Adrienne’s florist, plus all the tradesmen that drink in the Owl.
    If you need a carpet fitter
    a decorator
    a mechanic
    a hairdresser
    a window fitter
    a bricklayer
    a tarmacer
    a gardener
    a builder
    a electrician
    a plumber
    and many more trades people thats the place to find one.
    The Owl is a major part in the local economy and generates so much.’

    For me, I not only have lost my job but I have lost the family that i gained through working at such a fantastic place. Let’s keep fighting and hope that something good comes of this. Please all show your support my signing the petition and sharing the news. Join the facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/376074885834996/?fref=ts and tweet using #savetheowl

  8. Great pub, fantastic landlady, fab carvery. Lets hope we can save it. It’s a diamond.

  9. I heard the Landlady of my local on BBC Radio Leeds this morning speaking about this exact issue!

    What a truly remarkable woman she is! I have lived in Rodley for 20 years and have never seen The Owl at Rodley thriving like it is now!

    Mark, are you sure we’re talking about the same pub here?

    Many people on the comments here and on the facebook group linked to seem to disagree with you?! Knowing Gina (the landlady) like I do, I can safely say that if you had any concerns over the quality of the beer or food you were served then she’d be the first person to correct it! That’s just the kind of lady she is.

    As for the fictitious comments about the quality of their beer; please tell me why it is that The Owl at Rodley have featured in The Good Beer Guide EVERY YEAR GINA HAS BEEN THE LANDLADY and why CAMRA have recognised the commitment of The Owl to serving good ale by awarding them ‘Most Improved Pub’ (2008) and Community Pub of The Year (2011)?

    Kindly jog on and troll your opinions elsewhere..

    Using big words doesn’t excuse you from being a bonehead.

  10. The Owl is a brilliant pub with brilliant staff and landlady. I only hope we can save it because Rodley will have lost one of its greatest and most valued assets if not. We don’t want another local or another landlady/landlord in this one. We want Gina and her family and staff in the Owl. As it is now.

  11. I am the President of the WI at Rodley. We started 17 months ago and have always met at The Owl. We are not old, or fuddy duddy in fact we are nicknamed the wine institute!! Gina and her staff have always made us feel very welcome. She supports many good causes and community projects. I love the lunches, lovely quality and varied and interesting menu, always home cooked and well presented and good value for money. The customer service is second to none. She provides so much to the community and is happy to do so. Gina and her family & team will be missed. There are other pubs locally which are patronised by the locals but it is always nice to have a choice. People that choose the Owl do so because they appreciate what is on offer. Some people may not like what is on offer and obviously choose to drink elsewhere. Many people are passionate about the Owl, hence the strength of feeling and the tireless work of the ladies campaigning to keep this great community pub open. I for one will miss the Owl, and I am not the only one.

  12. @mark, whilst everybody is entitled to free speech to rant without substance does prove how uniformed you are.

    The Railway – great pub to walk to, however it stinks of dogs (which are allowed to sit on the chairs) the food is on average and the opening hours (3days a week) certainly don’t constitute a community pub.

    The Owl – allows dogs in but in the tap room where you have said you have seen the fights – ( whilst the odd testerone battle does kick in I have never seen fists flying and any sign of it is jumped on very quickly.

    Food – the restaurant is always packed and even the mid week offers are well received. All the food is cooked fresh and all supplied by LOCAL suppliers,

    Community groups use The Owls facilities on a regular basis, from the WI, to kids sports clubs, to reading clubs, I’m sure if it was as bad as you portray it to be then firstly no community groups would use it, secondly the facebook page “Save the Owl” would have as many people joining it nor MP’s, newspapers radio etc getting involved, afterall why follow a “crap” story and a “crap” pub?

    As I have said everybody is entitled to have an opinion and to drive where ever they like, your posting seems to be a little to personal to be offered as a decent argument.

    Regards,

    Elaine

  13. The Owl is not just about good food and drink. They serve some of the best pub food I’ve eaten, with a wide range of options, much of it locally sourced and made at The Owl. And they have a wide range of beer, including several real ales and other drinks.

    The Owl does not only provide brilliant service – they do, and it is clear the team are committed and keen to keep customers happy – and in my experience, on the very rare occasion when something has gone wrong, they have gone out of their way to put it right.

    The Owl is a pub for the community – but not only for its customers – also for staff and suppliers – with some of the money spent being returned in the local economy. Verity’s comments cover this so well.

    I won’t repeat the well justified praise that has been given by others, but simply state that I’ve been back to The Owl (which is not my nearest pub by some way) because it is more than worth the journey.

    What really concerns me is the level of expectation for profit that must exist if Gina does not feel able to pay the rent expected. The Owl is reasonably busy (often, extra tables needing to be prepared for the number of customers arriving to eat). It is right that the owners make something from their investment, but this should not be at a level that leaves the team who clearly work really hard to make the pub a success without a decent income that reflects their commitment.

    I truly hope The Owl can be saved, because if a pub run so well by such an excellent team can’t then it suggests there will be a huge number of pubs without a future.

Comments are closed.