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Dullingham's The Boot hosts 20-year celebratory beer, gin and cider festival

A thriving pub hosted a celebratory gin, cider and beer festival at the weekend to mark 20 years since it reopened and defied the view of Greene King that it was not a viable business.

The Boot, in Dullingham, hosted its festival from Friday through to Sunday night, offering cheap drinks to customers as a thank you for their support over the years.

Food vans catered for the packed house each night, with ten varieties of beer, two ciders and eight gins on offer as part of the celebrations.

Karen (second from left) is joined by Kevin and Dianne (third and fourth from left) and customers during the festival.
Karen (second from left) is joined by Kevin and Dianne (third and fourth from left) and customers during the festival.

The pub, in Brinkley Road, Dullingham, was closed in April 2001 by Greene King after being part of the village for more than 100 years, despite having a large group of regulars which included football and cricket teams, a darts team and a crib team.

The brewery submitted an application to have the pub converted in to a house, but the plans were hindered by the council’s requirement that the applicant demonstrate the pub could not be made profitable, with locals also making their feelings known after the closure had been announced.

In 2001, Christopher Russell, whose parents Jack and Poppy ran the pub between 1971 and 1990, said: “This has been the local pub for as long as I can remember and its closure is going to devastate lots of people’s lives.”

In September of the same year, Dullingham residents Kevin and Dianne McDonnell, who did not share the view that pub was unviable, bought The Boot – going on to run it very successfully for the next eight- and-a-half years.They have since handed the reins to daughter Karen, who is the current landlady.

Kevin said: “In 2001, Greene King decided to put the rent up 30 per cent and brought new managers in, and pretty soon after that they decided the pub wasn’t viable. But there were lots of people coming in regularly along with the local sports teams, so we didn’t agree with that.

“After buying the pub, lots of people chipped in with redecorating it and getting it ready for the grand reopening. We had settled on a reopening date, but then we had a group contact us wanting to have their stag do at the pub so we opened early and have been going strong ever since.

“The main secret to our success has simply been making everyone feel very welcome from the moment they walk through the door.”

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