A COUPLE who changed their lifestyle by taking over an ailing pub say they are enjoying the experience.
John and Sarah Schlaefli were given the lease of the Horns in Crazies Hill in August just six days before they were married.
Mr Schlaefli, 46, gave up his job as commercial director at the Professional Publishers Association in London to run the Brakspear pub, which had had five landlords in as many years.
His 40-year-old wife continues to run her own media consultancy, The Secret EA, when she is not at the pub.
The couple, who moved to the village last year, used to visit the Horns and decided to contact Brakspear when the pub became available, even though they had never worked in the licensing trade.
Mr Schlaefli said: “It has been a steep learning curve, not so much on the food and being nice to people, but in terms of running a pub. There’s so much going on and it can get complicated. For example, the water pipe in the ice machine came out and sprayed water everywhere and I realised I didn’t know where the stopcock was.”
Despite the challenges, he enjoys the change in lifestyle.
Mr Schlaefli said: “I was commuting for three hours for my old job, now it’s three minutes. I feel like I’ve got my life back. I can get up and walk the dogs rather than getting up at 6am and getting home at 9pm.
“I also love pubs and people and I’m a social animal so I don’t consider it work. Sarah’s doing less and less at the business now because this needs to be a full-time job.”
The pub was refurbished in October last year for the previous landlords. “We’ve put in new tables, Persian carpets, candelabras and more,” said Mr Schlaefli. “I’m also going to do up the garden for next summer and we will be open for the whole festive period. Brakspear have been very supportive and so have the villagers.”
The couple employ 11 people, seven of them full-time. Head chef Ian McCallum was head chef at the Crown in Playhatch for 10 years and also worked at the River Café in London.
One section of the pub has been turned into The Barn restaurant.
Mrs Schlaefli said: “We have spent a lot of time and money getting the food to a higher quality, with more inventive menus than before. It’s very much a pub with a restaurant attached rather than a ‘gastropub’.
“We have neighbours who have lived here for 20 years who say it’s never been so busy.”
The couple have introduced initiatives including a curry night with Wargrave restaurant the Spice Lounge. They also hold coffee and cake afternoons for parents of children at Crazies Hill Primary School, who can park at the pub free of charge while dropping their children off.
Mr Schlaefli said: “This used to be a very successful destination pub, so I know it’s got potential. It won’t survive with just people from the village.”
The couple were married in September and had a three-day honeymoon in Venice as they had just taken on the pub.
Mr Schlaefli said: “We opened on August 30 and got married at St Mary’s Church in Wargrave on September 6.
“We had our reception at the George and Dragon with more than 220 people there. It was a big party and then we went off on our ‘mini-moon’.
“We were quite happy to get back to the pub. I’d been working here for six weeks before we took over but it was different to come back and run it.”