IN HER 21 years as a publican Sally Crosby has noticed one major change.

She says: “Things seem to have gone full circle.

“In the past houses were being turned into pubs because there was such a demand for them. But the drinking culture has changed.


“People buy cheap booze from the supermarket and drink at home and not so many people go to the pub anymore.

“The next generation communicate on phones and laptops and don’t come for a drink at their local pub.

“By comparison, we have regulars who remember coming for their first pint here.”

She adds: “When we first came to the Leather Bottle the regulars were unsettled.

“They had not seen a landlord stay for more than 18 months and expected us to leave.

“But a year on we are still here and I plan to stay here for many years to come.”

Sally, along with pub manager and chef Ruth Kell, has turned the fortunes around of the Stanway pub.

She puts the success down to treating the pub like her home, and welcoming customers like you would friends and family.

Sally says: “The owner of this pub is investing more than £100,000 in refurbishing it next year.

“We will be doing some structuring works to it, modernising all the electrics and creating a garden space and function room in the garages outside.

“But it’s not all about the physical appearance which makes a pub successful.

“You have to treat pubs like your own home.

“You are welcoming people into your front room and have to be hospitable.

“However, I am quite strict and I have my standards, which customers have to live by when they are in here.”

Colchester born and bred, Sally, who is also landlady at the Cherry Tree in Mersea Road and recently signed a 20- year lease for the AbbeyArms in St John’s Green, started pub life as landlady at the Sun Inn in Lexden Road in 1992.

She has also run the Maypole in Berechurch Hall Road, which was sold last year by Punch Taverns, and the Black Bouy, in Wivenhoe, before it was taken over by a consortium of local residents to stop its closure by the pub company.

The Leather Bottle was due to be sold by Punch Taverns when an investor from Maldon bought it and got Sally on board to run it.

She denies she’s building a pub empire and laughs at the thought.

Sally says: “I haven’t got time to take on any more pubs! I have three and visit them all every day. They are all traditional pubs with a community atmosphere.

Sally explains: “When I took the Cherry Tree over there used to be about ten old boys who would come in every day.

“When the wife of one of them died, other regulars would help him out.

“Some would cook for him every day, another would do his washing.

Community pubs are all about looking after each other.”

Both Sally and Ruth are adamant about one thing though.

While they offer food at the Leather Bottle they do not want to be classified as a restaurant.

Sally says: “We offer food because pubs have to, but we are not a restaurant. We are a pub that does food.”.

“We don’t want to alienate people who just want to come out for a drink. Similarly, if they want to come in for a coffee and sandwich they can.”