When your local pub looks like it’s about to shut down, you’ve got two choices: drink somewhere else, or take it over. Quite literally putting his money where his mouth was, Ritchie Whitworth stumped up the cash to take over the Plasterer’s Arms in Hoylake, and within no time at all, found himself running the place.
Having been a regular of 30 years, he knew the pub – and its most important asset, its customers – well.
And the decades of experience on one side of the bar put him in a good position to know what would make it work on the other side of the pumps.
For Ritchie and wife Michele – who he credits as the creative force behind the pub – it was about making sure a community asset remained available to that community.
“Most of our customers live within 600 metres of our front door,” says Ritchie. “Our regulars are very good to us, and very loyal with their custom.
“They are the reason we wanted to keep the pub open – it’s about providing that meeting place that is now sadly lacking in many towns and villages. That, and to sell good beer.”
And the beer certainly is good. A keen real ale fan himself, Ritchie prides himself on keeping a good cellar.
“Bombardier is always popular, and at the moment we have White Rat, which has been doing well, plus Boltmaker and Purple Moose. There are three lagers, two bitters, Guinness and cider. We’re thinking of adding a craft beer too. There’s a list on the bar for customers to help us decide what they want to try next.”
But a pub cannot live by beer alone, as well Ritchie knows. There’s an excellent wine selection, an impressive and diverse whisky range, as well as a burgeoning gin offering, served with Fevertree tonic and garnished with juniper berries.
And as much as most nights there’ll be a delegation of drinkers at the bar setting the world right and tables full of friends catching up, the pub ensures it’s more than just a place to drink and chat.
A community pub
As well as the staple quiz nights and live music, christenings, birthdays, wedding parties and final send offs are all catered for. There’s live music and outdoor food on Lifeboat Day – major diary marker in Hoylake – as well as winter markets for local craftspeople, free Christmas lunches for the older community, and a visit from Father Christmas for the kids.
As a well-used establishment, it takes some upkeep. Since they took over three years ago, Ritchie and Michele set about returning it to its former glory, without stripping out any of the charm or original features that make it a home from home for so many. The open fires still roar in the winter time, and the recent addition of William Morris wallpaper in the snug has met with approval from many a discerning eye.
“We deep cleaned, re-painted, re-carpeted. One of our regulars, Julian, helped us choose the wallpaper for the snug. Another helped us to hang it. Another regular, John, does the planting in the beer garden, and in with the flowers he’s planted tomatoes, chillies and lots of herbs. It was a bit unloved out there but now it’s the best seat in the house,” Ritchie adds.
A warm welcome
While the local community is at the heart of the pub, there’s always a warm welcome for all visitors, two- or four-legged.
“We’re the only really dog-friendly pub this side of West Kirby,” Ritchie explains. “So lots of people find us through the internet when they’re looking for somewhere to bring their dog when they’re walking down the beach.
“We’re dog-friendly and family-friendly – we want people to feel welcome.”
It’s an approach in keeping with the motto of the pub painted on its crest- Let Brotherly Love Continue. For some it’s the Plasterer’s Arms, for others it’s The Plassies. For many in Hoylake, it’s just the pub. THE pub.