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Case study - Coach and Horses, Whitstable

The stars aligned the day Maddie O’Shea and Sarah Jones-O’Shea found out they had been chosen as the new licensees of the Coach and Horses in Whitstable.

The pair had had their eye on the Shepherd Neame pub in Oxford Street for some time after setting their hearts on running it.

The tenancy was also their first business venture together, after meeting when they were running busy rival managed pubs in Dalston in East London.

Sarah says: “We were very competitive actually!”

“We had wanted our own pub since not long after we met each other,” says Maddie. “We were good at what we did but we were making other people lots of money! When you are doing it and you are doing a really good job of it, and especially when you are doing the work, you want to get the gratitude for it.”

The couple, who are now married and moved to Whitstable three weeks before lockdown where Sarah’s family are, had been craving independence and a tenancy with Shepherd Neame provided the best of both worlds, offering both independence and the backing of Britain’s oldest brewer. 

“We’d taken everything we could out of London and we were feeling a bit unloved by London. We thought ‘let’s take this somewhere else’,” says Maddie. 

After taking a day off work to view places to live in the Kentish seaside town, they ended their day with a drink at the Coach and Horses and realised it was the one for them.

Sarah adds: “I’d always liked this pub – we had my dad’s 50th birthday here. It has always been a community pub and it had the classic boozer vibe that me and Maddie always worked in. We always drink in pubs like that, so we decided to keep our beady eyes on it.”

“We sat down and we looked at each other and thought ‘wow what we could do with a place like this’,” says Maddie. “When it became available we thought ‘this is it’ - the universe was telling us something!”

They set to work cleaning it up and repainting, but without changing it too much as they were keen to let its new character under them grow organically. “It is a living beast - it can tell its own story,” says Maddie.

The support the Shepherd Neame team provided during that period – and since – was invaluable, including their Business Development Manager, Peter Elliman, taking ‘a million calls a day’ from them.

A handy folder provided plenty of advice and knowledge on things they didn’t know about.

“For instance - compliance packages,” says Sarah. “We don’t know about that but Shepherd Neame does. They write everything down in a really good folder, which we still use today.”

Since then, they have been allowed free rein to make the pub what they want, but always with the knowledge support is close at hand. So what would their advice be for anyone in the same position as they were?

“We are enjoying it so much. It is tiring but we knew it would be - we have done this for years and years. It is a bit of a different beast when it is your own though,” says Maddie. “Make sure you have down time - use your energy wisely!”

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