Concerns over future of Odsey pub
PUBLISHED: 12:01 17 November 2018
Regulars at the only pub in Odsey have spoken of their concern about the future of the historic watering hole, saying the owners "are running it into the ground."
The Jester Country Inn has been part of the hamlet in the Steeple Morden parish for many years, and attracts custom from those who live nearby and further afield.
An application was made by current owners, British Country Inns, to knock down the pub – which is sandwiched between the A505 and Ashwell & Morden railway station – in 2017 and build six houses in its place, increasing the total number of homes in Odsey by 25 per cent.
When the application to South Cambridgeshire District Council was refused on appeal in January this year, punters thought its future would be secured.
John Courtney, who has been a regular at The Jester for 14 years, told the Crow: “There has been a pub on the site for many years and many families from the local area know it well.
“Odsey is yards from the busy, dangerous A505 junction crossing and the small hamlet has increasingly become a huge car park for Ashwell & Morden Station, in addition the road through Odsey is a rat run to local villages, one of the things in our favour is The Jester.
“Since the decision to refuse planning permission, the owners have shown a clear lack of ambition for the business, stopping weddings, lunch food service, closing early in the evenings and now not hosting the very popular and over-subscribed Christmas and new year parties.
“Basically it would appear they want the business to fail so they can re-apply for planning permission, this time showing a financial loss.
“The place is sadly fading, they show no interest in making it work and I would say the owners have given up. I am a regular at The Jester – I haven’t given up – and there are a few more like me who are aggrieved by what is happening.”
Tony Turner – who moved to Odsey in 1982, and goes in the pub about four times a week – said: “Times are tough for pubs obviously, so good pubs are advertising and completing to stay in business – but the owners are doing absolutely nothing to promote it.
“They’ve got a valuable asset – it has the largest function room around here, it has guest rooms and it’s next to a railway station.
“You can’t fault the managers, but it’s as though they’re operating with both hands and maybe a foot or two behind their back, because from what I can see they can’t promote it and they can’t take on extra staff.
“The pub and the railway station are the only assets we’ve got. People can come from all around, you can get the train, not drink and drive – it’s pretty unique for a country pub.”
Karen Hooton – who is originally from Royston, and lived abroad before moving to Odsey – said: “The Jester has been in my life for more than 30 years.
“I go there every Sunday for my lunch, I had my 60th birthday there the year before last, and I was planning to have my husband’s 70th there in January.
“Hopefully that will happen, but we don’t know.
“They were fully booked Christmas day last year, and we went to their New Year’s Eve do, which was absolutely fantastic and my sister and my cousin-in-law said get us tickets for next year literally as they left – but it’s not happening this year.
“It’s just baffling us as to why the owners are not making a go of running the pub, it seems such a shame. Last weekend they had people from the remembrance service in having lunch.
“It’s a shame when it used to be a big part of the community – we now don’t know whether to make plans or not at our community pub.”
Peter Mathews – executive director of British Country Inns PLC, which owns the pub – told the Crow: “The current position of the Jester Hotel, which is part of British Country Inns PLC, is as follows: An application for planning permission for a residential development was rejected on appeal.
“In order to proceed forward, as we are operating at a loss and have been for a considerable amount of time, we have to consider all options available to the company.
“In the meantime, we will only take bookings in which we are confident that we will be able to maintain our usual standard of service and quality.
“We are always prepared to talk to any possible purchasers or about any serious suggestions regarding the future of the Jester Hotel.”