Ashby-de-la-Zouch’s longest-serving licensee – Paul Monk of the Bowling Green Inn on Brook Street – has received a prestigious award to mark his 35th anniversary at the helm.
The long service award – from the pub’s owners, Star Pubs & Bars – recognises the contribution Paul has made to the town and the pub. One of the last traditional locals in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, the Bowling Green is a hub of the community, hosting events to bring people together, fundraising for good causes and putting on music nights that have helped launch many local bands.
Paul – who turns 70 in November – is not calling time yet and has just extended his lease at the Bowling Green for another five years, so that he can reach his goal of clocking up four decades. To keep the 17th-century pub thriving, he is completing a £27,000 refurbishment that has upgraded the interior and revamped the garden, creating the largest covered alfresco area in the town centre. He is also installing a new children’s play area, complete with a ship, tower and slide.
Looking for a change of direction from his job as a factory manager, Paul took over the Bowling Green in 1986. The pub was then a tiny local, popular with miners from the nearby collieries and serving draft ales at 90p a pint as well as trays of filled cobs. Recalls Paul: “I’d looked at loads of pubs. Although the Bowling Green was tired, when I walked in I knew it was ‘the one’. Everything about it and the regulars felt right. I never dreamed I’d be here so long. I’ve never looked back; I love it here.”
Over the years Paul has kept pace with changes in the town and pubgoers’ tastes. A succession of investments has doubled the pub’s size, made a big garden, installed Sky and maintained the pool table and darts boards. The drinks selection has also been transformed and includes a wide range of spirits, wines and premium lagers. The Bowling Green – which dates back to the 1600s – still retains its traditional feel however, with a completely separate bar and lounge and the original beams intact. And, whilst many of his first customers have passed away, Paul is now serving his third generation of Ashby-de-la-Zouch families.
Paul says the last year has been the hardest he has known at the Bowling Green. “It was heart-breaking to be closed at Christmas for the first time in 35 years. The pub felt very empty and quiet, and I missed all the banter and chat as much as the regulars did.” Even though it was shut, the Bowling Green continued to support the community, with Paul and his customers setting up a food bank that delivered essentials to around 50 senior citizens during the first lockdown.
With restrictions easing, the pub is busy planning two of its biggest annual events: the Ashfest music festival in September – which has raised £25,000 for animal charities in memory of a former customer – and a fireworks display in November.
Says Star Pubs & Bars’ area manager Alan Thornton: “Despite all the changes in Ashby-de-la-Zouch since 1986, the Bowling Green has stood the test of time. It’s a tremendous achievement and all down to Paul’s hard work, dedication and TLC. He’s always thinking of his customers and never rests on his laurels. It’s a great honour to present this award. We wish Paul all the best for five more happy years at the Bowling Green.”