Family says goodbye to pub after 37 years of ownership

The Johnson family is leaving the Woodman Inn after 37 years

The Johnson family is leaving the Woodman Inn after 37 years - Credit: Jenna Johnson

The Woodman Inn in Nuthampstead, which has been owned by the same family for nearly 40 years, will soon be under new management following the challenges of the pandemic.

The pub was bought in 1985 by Ian and Sandy Johnson, when their son Stuart was just a year old.

After they retired in 2010, Stuart and his wife Jenna took over the pub, and between 2011 and 2017 the couple had four children - Olive, Rita, Pearl and Fox - and the family all lived together at the pub.

Stuart and Jenna Johnson with (L-R): Rita, Fox, Olive and Pearl

Stuart and Jenna Johnson with (L-R): Rita, Fox, Olive and Pearl - Credit: The Johnson family

Jenna said: "When we took over the pub it was already in some financial difficulty from the 2008 recession. It gradually got worse and worse through the years.

"By 2017 times were getting really difficult. The bank was threatening to take the pub from us and close it."

The Woodman Inn was sold to a private investor in 2018, with the Johnsons still living there and running the pub.

"That worked for a little while, and then we had COVID," Jenna said. "The pandemic had a catastrophic effect on the pub."

The Woodman Inn in Nuthampstead

The Woodman Inn in Nuthampstead - Credit: The Johnson family

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This time last year, the investor also bought The Pheasant in Great Chishill, which the family ran as a sister pub.

The family decided to move on from both pubs in February, giving three months' notice.

Jenna said: "Over the pandemic we lost a lot of staff. We furloughed everyone but not everyone stayed on afterwards.

"When we reopened we had lots of customers but not enough staff. Stuart's been working 70-plus hour weeks. It's not sustainable.

"It's really hard - we've got so many years of memories. But we're excited for the next step."

Stuart will be going to work at The Tivoli bar in Cambridge, which is opening next month, while Jenna will be working at local marketing agency Sanders and Jay. 

She said: "We'd really like to thank all of our customers and staff for their support.

"Country pubs just do not work without the support from the local community. 

"There have been some tough times over the past few years. Stuart's dad died in 2015 and everyone rallied around and helped.

"They're lovely people and we'll miss them."

Both pubs will continue to be open for business as usual for customers. Customers and friends are invited to come to The Woodman to say goodbye to the Johnsons on Sunday, from midday.