Businessman buys village pub where he enjoyed his first ale

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Life went full circle for Chris Cozens last week when he bought the Speldhurst pub where he supped his first pint as a youth.

Now an experienced publican he has announced his intention of returning his favourite teenage watering hole ‘to its glory days’ after buying the George and Dragon.

Mr Cozens completed the nostalgic purchase after the pub was put on the market at the end of last year by hotel and restaurant owner Julian Leefe-Griffiths.

With ten years in the trade the purchase was more than simply an attempt to relive his youth for Mr Cozens, who saw the purchase as an opportunity to add a public house with ‘huge potential’ to the several he already owns in Cambridge, where he currently lives.

“This was the first pub I visited as a youth and my parents, who live nearby, still come here as does my sister who lives in Tunbridge Wells.

“I grew up in Speldhurst before moving to London to work for Sky. One day I saw a small boarded up pub and wanted to buy it. I have been in the pub trade ever since and have bought more in the Cambridge area and I am looking to expand.

“When the George and Dragon went on the market around Christmas time I just couldn’t resist putting in an offer.”

The pub was listed by Christie & Co on behalf of Mr Leefe-Griffiths, who himself purchased the establishment over a decade ago, for £250,000.

One of his first acts since taking over last week was to bring back Larkin’s beer, which had been discontinued several years ago – to the chagrin of many regulars and the local cricket club.

“I had members of the Speldhurst Cricket Club in last week and they were delighted at the return of Larkins and drank a fair amount of it,” he said, adding he has ensured ‘a good selection’ of local gins are also available.

Although he plans to retain the pub’s high quality food offering, the focus will no longer be on fine dining but will instead be on the family and Mr Cozens said he is toying with the idea of letting under-fives’ eat for free.

To this end, he also plans to create a children’s’ play area, alongside re-landscaping and a ‘complete reworking’ of the exterior the pub’s exterior.

A less family-focussed initiative will be the creation of a dedicated smoking area.

“For most pubs to be successful they need to have a broad appeal. Many locals felt a bit disenfranchised with the previous direction the pub was heading in.

“They are pleased to have someone who grew up here take the place over and we have had a great reception from the local population.”

The Black Pig in Tunbridge Wells, that has also been put on the market by Mr Leefe-Griffiths, has attracted interest but remains unsold.

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