The landlord of Pateley Bridge’s sole pub on the High Street has thanked his loyal customers as he prepares to retire after 31 years but fired a parting shot at the authorities for not giving enough support to community pubs.
The three decades Dennis Audsley has run the Crown Inn, which began life as a is a 17th century coaching house, have seen many changes.
For years the former RAF man has adapted and survived, sometimes with the help of his sister Catherine, who now runs the Royal Oak pub in Staveley.
But the time to put his feet up and stop pulling pints of Black Sheep or Timothy Taylors - among a hige range of other tasks - has definitely.
“I’m thankful to the Crown’s loyal regulars. I’ve served three generations of people here.
“There’s been grandads and dads and their children, too. But I just think it’s time to go.
“Will I miss it? In some ways yes, in some ways no.
“The rewards have gone. The fun has gone out of it.”
But Dennis, who said he will handover to the Crown’s new landlord George Brown next, was determined to lift spirits on his final weekend at last remaining traditional public house on the High Street with not one but two farewell parties at the Crown with everyone was invited.
At the age of 73, Dennis said he is simply looking forward to doing nothing for a bit, though his passion for wildlife photography is sure to surface.
He remembers the early years at the Crown with affection, the days when one of its great-tasting pints cost less than a £1 and pubs were not expected to be quality restaurant and a hotel and live venue all at the same time.
Dennis said: “I’m earning less now than I did when I first took over the pub.
“When I started you could run things with a couple of staff.
“Now at times we have a head chef and 15 to 16 people working here and they all need paying more than then.
“I don’t get holiday pay or anything.”
Running the Crown Inn was Dennis’s second great career.
Previously he worked in air control in the RAF, a role he fulfilled and enjoyed with typical steadfastness for 22 years.
The problem for community pubs isn’t just that the prices they can charge to the public have not risen sufficiently to match other costs, he said.
It’s that the system itself seems rigged against the small operator.
Dennis said: “The Government keeps on putting up the hourly rate for workers, the local rates are so high, then there’s VAT.
“The Government and everyone else want so much out of businesses like mine.
“Working for yourself isn’t worth it. It’s just hard work.
“It’s not viable unless customers pay more but people in the country or small towns won’t pay city prices. This will end up effecting Harrogate restaurants and bars, too.”