This post wast first published by Croydon Advertiser on 21/07/2017.
Why more women are now visiting this Croydon pub
Tucked among a parade of shops, the pub opposite Addiscombe tram stop has been a fixture in the area for 30 years.
Most of the customers at the traditional boozer, which was formerly called The Claret and was instantly recognisable by its deep red frontage, always used to be men.
But a year ago this month a new landlord took over the pub on Lower Addiscombe Road, renamed it The Claret & Ale and has been gradually brightening up the place ever since.
Now, with a brighter frontage, more women are coming into the watering hole and younger customers too.
But its old regulars are happy too as the pub has maintained its reputation for being very much into its real ale – and this year has again been named Croydon’s Pub of the Year, by the Croydon and Sutton branch of Camra, a group that promotes real ale.
It is an award it has won seven times previously as The Claret.
The new landlord is Charles Read, a former Virgin Airline pilot who was a regular himself before buying up the freehold to the building and swapping sides of the bar.
Charles, who lives around the corner and knew most of the customers when he took over, explained: “I was a customer here for 15 years beforehand. I very much liked the real ale which was my main interest.
“It was just tired, in need of a bit of investment. It was very dark.
“We have just tried to lighten it up, made it look more inviting for everybody.”
The frontage is now a shade of white with brass lettering spelling out the new name and four copper lanterns above.
There is a stylish new grey awning too.
Charles has replaced the tables and carpet, as well as adjusted the lighting to make it feel brighter.
It had been freshly painted before he bought it back in July last year but he has replaced the pictures.
The men’s toilets have been improved, there is a new high table in the corner and there are bar stalls with real leather seats in a rich rust red colour.
It has all been done gradually over the last year without closing the pub to carry out the work.
Among future plans are improving the bar area, although Charles has already installed some new equipment such as fridges and an ice machine.
Now more people are venturing in – including female drinkers and younger people as the grown-up sons and daughters of regular customers are starting to join their parents for a drink.
Charles said: “We have had a 20 per cent increase in the number of ladies who come in now.
“A lot of them are the wives and girlfriends of the customers who wouldn’t come before. They come in now because they like it.”
The pub always had a reputation for being trouble free and a place where women would feel safe.
And those values still hold strong
Charles said: “If you ask anyone in here they would say it is a very welcoming, friendly pub.
“It is definitely a community pub for all the locals.
“It’s just one of those pubs where you don’t get any trouble. We don’t tolerate any. That’s what the customers really like.
“It’s trying to be a community pub and to welcome everybody.”
The Pub of the Year award was announced in May and the certificate, which now sits above the till, was presented in June.
Other accolades presented to the pub before Charles took over are on display too.
Of course, being a Camra award-winning pub there is always an opportunity to try a new beer.
It has six real ales to choose from, five of which change almost every two to three days.
“We try to make a nice selection of light ales, dark ales and the odd stout,” said Charles.
And there are plenty of favourites for lager lovers, including the likes of Carling and Stella, if real ale isn’t your thing.
It isn’t going to become a foodie’s gastro pub, though. If you’re feeling peckish bar snacks such as crisps, peanuts and pork scratchings will keep you from going hungry.
Explaining why he decided to swap the life of an airline pilot – a career which lasted 23 years – for running his local pub, Charles said: “I have always wanted to work for myself and I love the pub and I knew it was coming up for sale.
“I thought as I was new, as it were, to the pub trade, I would have a chance to be able to learn and be forgiven for not getting things quite right.”
He has members of the original staff working alongside him and paid credit to his team.
“The staff are as responsible for the success of it,” he said.
And Charles has been enjoying his career change.
“It has been, as you can imagine, a huge learning curve,” he said.
“I relished getting my teeth into it as a new project and continuing my love affair with real ale.”