When James Nolan took over The Deysbrook pub in West Derby it had been empty for 18 months.
Aged 22 at the time, James, who only lives down the road in Stockbridge Village, was managing a nightclub in town when he decided he wanted to take on a new challenge.
With the help of his family and a loyal team of staff, James managed to bring the pub back to life and within the space of 12 months “it was thriving”.
Since then, he has watched as other pubs on the estate have sadly closed down around him and The Deysbrook is now the last one left.
It’s a sight that has become all too familiar on estates across Merseyside as pubs are replaced by houses, flats and supermarkets, with many of them now demolished.
Despite the challenges pubs have faced before and during the pandemic, the story of The Deysbrook shows the vital role pubs play in local communities and how many people would be lost without them.
James, 28, told the ECHO: “The pub had been empty for 18 months, it was a dump when we took it up.
“I saw a sign on it and I said ‘I think i’m going to take The Deysbrook on mum.’
“She said ‘you’re stupid it’s empty for a reason’ but I felt like I could do something with it.
“I took it on and I did a business plan. My target for year five we’d done in year one, it just took off.”
“If I don’t have entertainment I find people don’t come out”
James was keen to give the pub a new lease of life by putting on different entertainment that the whole community could enjoy.
From open mic nights and quiz nights to Karaoke and supporting live singers from the local area, there’s usually always something going on there.
Locals can also hire the function room at The Deysbrook for free, with table and chair cover provided for any occasion.
James believes the entertainment is a key part of the pub’s success, as the team manage to cater for all ages and welcomes feedback from locals.
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James said: “It’s sad to see other pubs closing. Every pub around me has gone, I’m the last one standing.
“If I don’t have entertainment I find people don’t come out.
“I think that’s why a lot of pubs are going because in this day and age you can get ale so cheap in Tesco and watch Sky Sports on the telly at home for £10.
“You’ve really got to give people reason to get up and get dressed and come out of the house as well as getting to see friends.
“I think you’ve got to keep it young and keep your ideas fresh, as well as accommodating for everyone – old and young.”
“I think it means the world to some people, we’re one big family”
“We have young local singers on, and once a month I put an up-and-coming dance DJ on which brings people in their 20’s and 30’s in,” said James.
“On a Tuesday we have a pensioners club from the area in there who play bingo.
“There was a walking group who used to go walking every weekend but they had no way of getting there.
“I thought if I invest in a mini bus for them and then someone drives them there, that’s going to bring them back to the pub. So every weekend they go walking and once they’ve been walking they come back to the pub.
“I think it means the world to some people, we’re one big family.”
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From speaking to James it’s clear how much The Deysbrook means to people in the area, as a place where “everyone knows everyone.”
During the six years it has been back open it has gone from strength to strength and they are hoping to extend their function room in the near future to cater for larger events.
Like all pubs across the country it is currently closed due to the national lockdown but the team are excited to reopen as soon as they are able to do so.
James said: “It’s a really difficult time for hospitality.
“We did reopen from the first lockdown but because we had to operate at a reduced capacity for social distancing we put up a marquee from one end of the gardens to the other, so the seats I lost inside I gained outside.
“The support we had from everyone was unreal.
“I’ve got a great team of staff behind me who have a lot of input – without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.”