December update: The Taverners – design

17 December 2009
December update: The Taverners – design

"We wanted a warm, atmospheric, inviting pub that showed history - an old traditional look with stone, wood beams and fireplaces." Luckily for chef-patron Roger Serjent and his wife and business partner Lisa Choi, much of what they sought was already in place at the Taverners in Godshill, on the Isle of Wight.

Despite this, there was still much to do when the couple paid £92,000 for a 16-year lease on the premises in May 2008. A lot of the character was buried amid tired and outdated decor, such as red patterned carpet; tartan, purple and net curtains; and vinyl wallpaper.

The first thing Serjent and Choi did was take the pub back to basics. Carpets were removed to reveal floorboards, the walls stripped bare and painted cream. A new bar was installed at the front of the building and dimmable lighting replaced the fluorescent bulbs throughout the pub.

Also gone were the fruit, sweet and cigarette machines, substituted with prints and seasonal food charts on the walls and a new baby change room and playroom were also added to the property.

The pair also had their work cut out for them with the pub's exterior. The waste bins outside the front door were re-sited and vegetable beds, fruit trees and a chicken run make up what was once an overgrown garden half filled with rubble.

Extensive refurbishment of the back bar area has been carried out, at a cost of roughly £900 which was funded by savings made in the summer, but plans to move or shorten the bar itself have been put on hold. Although it would "create a better flow through the building", the couple aren't yet prepared to meet the £5,000-£6,000 quotes they've had.

In order to achieve their vision of a warm, historic pub, Serjent and Choi replaced cheap, dark wood tables with chunky, reclaimed pine. The red velvet seating was reupholstered with a fabric chosen because it appeared old and worn.

Serjent explains: "We wanted it to look as if it was more in vogue a century ago. We felt it had to look like everything had been there for a hundred years or so to fit with the building age and village history.

"I hate it when the interiors of old pubs are ripped out to make them look new. It might work in cities, but people have an image of what a country, village pub should look like and we tried to create that image of immediate comfort."

Lee Cash, the couple's business mentor and co-founder of the Peach Pub Company, believes their design ambitions have been successful. He says: "They have made their place welcoming and personal. Pubs don't need designers all over them, they need integrity."


November turned out to be a quiet month for Taverners business owners Roger Serjent and his wife Lisa Choi, and they marginally missed their budget for the first time this year.

"However, the quieter month and the new chef have allowed us to get things like the refurbishment of the back bar area done," says Serjent. The usually busy couple also took the opportunity take a couple of days off with their young daughters, which they feel helped them to refocus.

As suggested by mentor Lee Cash, they are trying to source a database software program so they can begin collecting valuable customer information and keep them informed.

The only other pub in the village of Godshill has just come on to the market, which has raised some concern for Serjent and Choi. "At the moment, they target a completely different market to us which suits us fine. Hopefully the new owners will continue that way, if it sells," says Serjent.

Following the busy Christmas period, the pair plan to take some holiday time off, which they admit they are looking forward to. "We have lots of planned visits to the mainland to see other operations," Serjent explains. "I'm still hoping to see one of Lee's pubs."

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