Two popular country pubs in the Penrith area which had been run by the same family for many years are now under new management.
Joe Gregory, 34, is the new leaseholder of the Highland Drove Inn, Great Salkeld, and the Cross Keys Inn, Carleton, Penrith, which had been run by the Newton family, who took over at the Drove almost 23 years ago.
Mr Gregory is leasing the Cross Keys and the Drove from Joshua Church, an investor based in Cockermouth and London, who said he had bought them because he loves the Penrith area and the traditional feel the two pubs represent.
He added that he likes the Drove so much that he might hold his wedding there when he and his partner tie the knot.
Originally from Bristol, Mr Gregory lives at Lorton and already runs the Filling Station Cafe, Keswick, just off the A66.
He was also planning to open a restaurant in the town’s Main Street before the COVID pandemic struck, but put this project on temporary hold when the two Penrith area pubs became available.
He says there is a growing market for the Cross Keys, with many houses being built nearby, and that he intends to keep things very much as they are at the pub, with good, consistent and fast food service and television coverage of major sporting events.
“I aim to showcase local beers there where we can and have a changing rotation of real ales,” he said. “We are also planning to hold some events, like beer festivals – possibly this year if we can.”
He intends the Highland Drove to become more of a food destination or gastro-pub, and says it could also make a good venue for weddings and other events.
However, he stressed there will still be an area for local people to gather and enjoy a pint or two, thus maintaining its status as a community asset for Great Salkeld.
The layout on the ground floor of the Drove will remain much as it is, since there is plenty of space for both diners and drinkers, although work is under way on eight bedrooms on its upper floor.
Mr Gregory added that he is in the process of recruiting staff, including managers for the two pubs, and has already had many good applications.
The Cross Keys should reopen on May 17 and the Drove probably a couple of weeks later.