Couple who run village pub win Landlords of the Year
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
A couple who run a pub which doubled as a village shop during lockdown have been named Landlords of the Year in the 2021 North Norfolk News Awards.
In January this year, Elaine and Tim Merritt, who run the Red Hart Inn in Bodham, opened a community shop on their premises.
The village had been without a shop since the closure of its previous business seven years ago which left residents facing a four-mile trek to their nearest store.
Mrs Merritt, 57, said: "There were a lot of people who needed things and especially who needed contact with people. During lockdown they couldn't see family and friends.
"There were also a lot of people who came into the pub when we opened up the shop who we didn't see as pub customers. It was good for them to come in. They saw that the pub was not just a place for drinking but it is a social hub too.
"It showed when we opened that it's needed in the village. There are a lot of elderly people here. They need somewhere local to get their bits," she said.
The pub did fish and chips and Sunday lunches for takeaway and delivery. They also delivered Christmas lunch last year to people living in Holt, Sheringham, Bodham and East and West Beckham.
The couple, with their sons Lee, 33, and Martyn, 29, took over running the pub in 2013.
Mrs Merritt said: "It has always had a good local following. We've tried to keep it friendly and to keep the locals happy. From there we've gained extra customers from surrounding towns and villages, from Sheringham and Holt."
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Mrs Merritt had worked at her brother's pubs and her son Lee had been the manager at the Wiveton Bell near Blakeney.
On winning the award, Mrs Merritt said: "It's great. It was lovely to be nominated to start with and to win is fabulous.
"It's been a really tough year. We did what we could for the community during lockdown and it's helped us, too, with the takeaways and the shops supporting our income."
In May this year, Bodham Parish Council registered the Red Hart Inn as an asset of community value.
At the time, Callum Ringer, vice-chairman of the council, said it would give the village six months to raise the money to make a bid for the pub if it ever were to go on the market.