St James pub, Ye Olde Two Brewers, will open this weekend with a new landlord and landlady, Dimitrios and Lynne Damalitis. The husband and wife team are in listening mode and they’re keen to hear what locals would like from ‘the pub down the hill.’
Lynne Damalitis has never been a landlady before. She’s understandably excited and nervous. With Dimitrios, her husband of thirty years, she has made a life changing decision. The couple have decided to leave London for rural North Dorset.
They decided to leave ‘The Smoke’ last year and they’ve been pub hunting for six months. “We’ve been looking for a new venture because we wanted to come out of London,” said Lynne. “We wanted to change our lifestyles and we had been looking for various pubs or restaurants all over the Southwest, because that’s the area we wanted to be in. We just walked into this one and it clicked straightaway. The area is lovely and the people are very friendly, compared to London people.”
“It really felt right,” she added. “I just like that everybody is chatty. The pub is friendly and it’s cozy. We are going to be really dog and children friendly. I just want it to be an open spot for all of the locals to come in whenever they want to.”
Lynne has already discovered that Shaftesbury is a close-knit community – and that news can travel quickly across our hilltop town. “We came here about five times before we agreed to take on the pub, just checking everybody out, the local competition and things like that. And it was bizarre,” said Lynne. “People found out that we were coming even before we decided we were coming!”
Lynne still can’t believe that she ended up eavesdropping on a conversation about her taking on the pub. “A very funny situation happened. We were in a bar and somebody was talking about the Two Brewers. One man asked what was happening when the previous owners leave. The other gentleman turned around said ‘Oh, don’t worry, the Greeks are coming’.”
That amused Lynne. “Everywhere people have been saying ‘welcome’ and they’ve even been waving at us in the street. We didn’t even know that they knew us but obviously they saw us on Facebook,” she added.
Lynne hasn’t run a pub previously, but she says that she is good with people and the couple understands the food business.”We had two restaurants that we co-owned and my past work was in running a large nursing home. My last one had 110 beds,” she said.
So what’s Lynne’s vision for The Brewers? It seems that Shaftesbury residents can have a hand in what happens in the pub. “I want this to be our local pub, the ‘down at the bottom of the hill’ pub. I also want the people at the top of the hill, when they come down, to stay with us and pop in and meet us. It’s going to be a local pub. And also in the summer we want all the tourists to come as well.”
Lynne is keen to host events at the pub. “We would obviously like to keep up with the skittle teams because I understand they are very popular. I’d like to do the quiz. I’d like to bring in some entertainment as well,” said Lynne. “I just want it to be really lively, but what I want is that the locals tell us what they want so that we can accommodate them. So if there’s anything that they feel would be great for this pub, tell us!”
Food will be an important part of the pub’s offering, as you might expect with the couple’s restaurant-owning experience. “At the moment we’re just refurbishing the kitchen. We’re going to actually do Greek specials, and if that’s successful, we want to do a Greek evening every week,” said Lynne. “We will be having themed days, like steak days and fish and chips, too,” she added.
Lynne and Dimitrios have agreed that they will have defined roles. “I’m front of house, staff, wages, ordering, all of that kind of thing. And he is kitchen and cooking. I do not cook. I haven’t cooked for thirty years, so if my husband takes sick it’s going to be takeaways!” laughed Lynne.
I asked Lynne whether she’d practiced a Peggy Mitchell-esque, ‘Get out of my pub’. She laughed and told me she had no intention of barring regulars.
The pub will open for the Skittle Group tonight, but while the work is underway in the kitchen, there will be a cut-down menu, for a while. “We are opening up the bar from five o’clock tomorrow (Friday 8th). We’re going to do a launch party on the 16th February, with a free buffet. Everybody’s welcome and we’d love to see everybody and from then we’ll be working normally.”
Lynn isn’t making major changes to the pub right away. The Brewers currently closes on a Monday and will continue to do so for the meantime. “I think that we’ll just leave it as it is at the moment. As we go towards the summer, depending on how busy it is, then we will probably think about opening Mondays,” Lynne said, adding, “I come from a customer service background, so for me, it’s very, very important that my customers get good service. I just want it to be a very friendly place that people want to be in.”
Lynne admits that she has some worries. Taking on a new business in a new town is a challenge – and obviously she wants ‘The Brewers’ to be successful. “I’m apprehensive because this is a new venture for me completely. My husband’s been in this kind of trade all his life. He’s a chef. He was a baker. He’s done bar work. He has worked as a DJ. He’s done all of that kind of stuff, but for me, I haven’t. To me people are people and whether they’re from a nursing home or in a pub or a shop, it is customer service, isn’t it? I just like people to be happy,” smiled Lynne.