Pub dog Scrumpy and his owners have celebrated a landmark birthday after 10 years at the Volunteer Inn, in Ottery St Mary.
Pub owners Mike and Jacqui Down, marked the 10th anniversary of owning the town centre pub, praising its ‘first-class team’ who help keep the Volunteer Inn running smoothly.
The recent birthday celebrations also included the couple’s dog, Scrumpy, who joined Mike and Jacqui at the Broad Street pub shortly after they took over at the end of February 2012.
As the couple look back over the past 10 years, they have revealed ‘major’ future plans to open a beer garden next year – a dream held by the pair since they took over in 2012.
Mike said: “There’s a lot of work to do to get this right, but all being well our customers will be enjoying drinks in the sunshine sometime in 2023.”
The Volunteer started life in 1810, a traditional hostelry with a dark interior, two small rooms, a cramped bar, and outside toilets.
Mike said: “As early as we could, we built inside loos. There was huge delight when we opened them.”
He added: “For us the Volunteer will always be a work in progress. We feel that we are caretakers of the 200-year heritage and as such although we need to move with the times, we will always make sure we keep the heart of the pub the same.”
The couple said they have spent the past decade ‘working tirelessly’ to turn the pub into ‘something really special’.
Mike said: “From just three of us holding the fort we now have a management team, three chefs and a great local pool of bar and restaurant staff.”
Another early change was the refurbishment of the back bar room into a restaurant.
More recently the couple invested in a state-of-the-art kitchen, and plan to install a new dishwashing system.
The couple said the Covid-19 pandemic ‘took its toll’ on The Volunteer when all hospitality venues were forced to close for many months amid multiple lockdowns.
Mike and Jacqui set up a food delivery service for The Volunteer locals keen not to miss their favourite pub grub.
“We clocked up 13,000 miles during the various lockdowns, mainly from delivering to our customers,” said Mike.
The delivery service remains available for Sunday roasts and for a handful of Ottery residents who still feel too vulnerable to go out, the couple said.