Meet the new owner of The Crown in Elsenham
PUBLISHED: 08:26 25 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:26 25 April 2019
The new owner of The Crown in Elsenham says he wants to create a "real community pub" in the village.
Aaron Fennell, a former table tennis coach and owner of the Marne Inn in Bishop's Stortford, took over the pub this month after its previous owners closed the site due to “unforeseen circumstances” and he has big plans to include the community in its reopening.
“People are crying out for the pub to be open again, so we will reopen, but the kitchen won't open to start with. We want to do a comment box to ask people what food they would like,” Aaron said. “The focus is going to be on food, coffee mornings for parents – a real community pub. The middle area will be a nice new area and people will see a few changes. We're trying to cater for everyone and a wider audience.”
Aaron also wants to feed a family for free each week as part of his vision for the pub and parents at the school will still be able to use the pub car park.
“We want to focus on families and create a softer environment,” Aaron said. “We want to make it appealing to all markets, but still have those separate areas – such as the restaurant, cosy area and public bar with a jukebox. I want you to be able to come in with your partner and enjoy a meal, while someone is listening to jukebox music on the other side of the bar. “It's important that everyone feels welcome in here and we will also host events that bring the community together.”
Homemade 'pub grub' is Aaron's vision for the menu, but he wants to engage the local community to decide what the pub should be like.
“We really want to try and engage the local community with what the pub is going to be about, which I don't think was apparent before,” he said. “If you don't listen to the community, you're never going to appeal to them. I want to work with people on this. You've got thousands of people in Elsenham and probably 80 per cent of them never come in here, even though it's the only pub and restaurant. You've got bundles of opportunity to make something good. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise the opportunity you have here.”
Aaron currently lives in Bishop's Stortford with his wife, who works as a police officer, but he sold his house to live near Manuden, in between the Marne Inn and The Crown. He plans to be at The Crown for a year before moving on to another pub and handing over to the manager, who has worked for Aaron for several years.
“I'd like to get to four pubs and create a mini pub company – but keep it local based, really targeted on communities. We want it to be called Pub Hub Co,” Aaron said.
Aaron grew up in Bishop's Stortford and studied sport and leisure at university.
Before landing in the pub industry eight years ago, he worked as a national coach for England table tennis.
“My mum just called me one day and said the Marne Inn, our local pub, is up for sale and she said 'I think you should take it'. I'd never even opened barrel before, let alone run a team or a pub,” he said. “I failed one application - they gave it to someone else - and then I applied again after about six months because the guy failed. They were taking about £1,500 a week when I took over and in my first week, I was taking about £8,500 straight away. We've had our challenges, but we are peaking now in my eighth year.
“I've now got my own challenges, managing two pubs, helping other staff, recruiting, but at the end of the day if people come in and try, I am confident of keeping them in here.”
A 'soft launch' is planned for Wednesday, May 1, from midday, and the official reopening will be on Saturday, May 4, with drinks and a barbecue. While the bar areas and garden will be open, the restaurant area and kitchen will be closed for further renovation.