Meet the couple hoping to revitalize the Grapes Inn Goosnargh and save the ‘British institution’, a country pub

The Grapes Inn has been the center of Goosnargh for over 300 years and in August 2021, still in the shadow of the pandemic, married couple Nicola Denham, 45, and Mark Webster, 48, decided to give the closed pub another life.

Originally from Manchester but based in Rossendale, the couple and their nine-year-old daughter Saffia moved into the Grapes Inn within six months of selling their home in what was “all a bit of a whirlwind”.

Nicola explains why they took on the task of running the pub: “Mark is a chef and I have taught but we have always enjoyed going into pubs, eating out and discussing what we would do with ours . Then in February 21 I was fired and I was a bit at a loss as to what to do with myself, it shook my confidence. But I had just checked online what it takes to have your own pub, drove around and assessed a few places and Grapes was one of the ones available. It was quite difficult as we didn’t have any experience so we had to prove to ourselves at the interview stage that we were a viable option for the company to take us on.”

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Husband and wife couple Nicola Denham and Mark Webster (two on the right) put their stamp on The Grapes Inn in Goosnargh. Pictured with collaborators Helen Rossall (far left) and Niamh Quigg.

Although the couple aren’t from the area, Nicola says they soon found the community to be “really supportive,” with residents offering to paint benches, trim the lawn and do other small chores while the couple mingle learning the ropes.

Nicola explained: “I’d never run my own business let alone a pub, I hadn’t even had a beer so it was a huge learning curve for me and Mark had never run a pub kitchen, he always has B. in contract or school catering, so it was a big change for him. We got very busy opening it and everyone was very welcoming, although I think it took a while for some people to realize we were open!

“It’s a lot harder than we thought, especially with Covid when it hit again in the winter it was a bigger battle than we expected. Some days I feel brave, some days I feel like I’ve had a moment of madness! You have to be a very resilient, positive-minded person to keep going every day when you’re without customers and the bills are so high. So it’s a tough one, but it’s a beautiful pub an amazing village.”

Since officially opening in late August, the Grapes Inn has seen a growing clientele, proving popular with families, dog walkers, cyclists, local drinkers and even people from far away.

An 18th-century coaching inn, The Grapes Inn has been run by Nicola and Mark since last August.

Certainly part of the attraction is the ‘beautiful’ great big beer garden and ‘fabulous draft beers’, while the extensive menu includes pub classics, lunchtime snacks, Grazers to share, home-made pizzas and a full Sunday roast.

Nicola said: “We have our regulars, like our Friday night crew, our Sunday night crew, and you get to know everyone, so it’s a really nice community and people from other places come to visit us too. We’re getting there, but I think we still have a long way to go. It was closed when we took it over and it’s changed hands quite a few times over the last couple of years, then of course COVID so people had lost confidence in it a bit and started going to other places, so we’ve just been doing our best day by day to win everyone back and obviously get some new customers.”

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An avid pub lover, Nicola is determined to lead the business to success and ensure that the Grapes Inn exists for generations to come.

Landlady Nicola says: “The community was great and still is.”

She explained: “It’s such a cutting-edge building in the heart of Goosnargh, a place where people come and spend time with friends, spend time with family.

“People said I lost my wife and we came to this pub, or so and so had his baptism there. We had a funeral a few months ago and the gentleman and his wife whose funeral it was actually had their wedding reception here so it’s an important place in the village because it holds a lot of important memories.

“That’s what these places are for, but there aren’t enough of them, there are so many country pubs like ours that close week in and week out, you just have to drive through villages like ours and even into bigger towns.

“It’s a British institution, the pub, it needs to be kept alive because otherwise people will be at home watching TV and it’s not good for your mental health, you need to be outside meeting people and enjoying yourself.

Nicola adds her thanks to Paul and Norma Booth who came in for lunch in October as customers but ended up doing the Christmas decorations and interior design of the restaurant.

“They also want a place where you can just drop by with the kids and the dogs, have something to eat and go back home, you don’t always want to pay for a cab into town. That’s the important thing about places like this, that they’re right on your doorstep.”

As well as serving food from Wednesday to Sunday, The Grapes Inn offers live music at least once a month, usually on Saturdays, as well as a pub quiz, comedy nights and a function room for all occasions.

Nicola added: “There’s a lot going on, I’d like to think I’m trying to create a real community atmosphere, of course if anyone has any suggestions on how we can make it better that’s always welcome, but we’re working on it Socks off so people just have to come and really try us out!”

Meal reservations are advisable and can be made by calling 01772 417027, texting 07427 623468 or emailing [email protected]

You can find out more about the Grapes Inn by visiting their website or Facebook.

Nicola describes Grapes Inn as “a nice cozy restaurant” that is also dog friendly!

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