The Hop relocates - a great move for the pub and the Old Town community

By Claire Dukes - 15 April 2019

Food & DrinkBusinessCommunityArts and Culture
  • “It’s a family business

    “It’s a family business" - father and son: Jason and Ben Putt

"It’s been really successful," says the owner of a popular family-run boozer in Old Town after relocating to bigger premises.

  • Karen, Jason and Ben

    Karen, Jason and Ben

After opening its doors on Devizes Road nearly seven years ago, The Hop quickly established itself as one of Old Town's go-to spots for premium cask and keg beers. It's part of the reason the pub's owner, Jason Putt, and his wife Karen, decided to make the move next door.

Since The Hop's move, back in March, to the former Pig on the Hill site the management team, Jason and son-turned bar manager, Ben Putt, say that it's been "buzzing". Jason, 64, said: "It’s been really successful – it’s exceeded expectations.

"The move here was to extend what we offered in the old place. The advantage of this is that it’s got a garden area, - which I’m sure will be quite popular in summer – and we’ve got an upstairs room which will enable us to do other things like live music to widen our horizons."

Ben, 36, added: "We’ve been talking for years about expanding, – we’ve looked at Wotton Bassett, Marlborough and Calne – and then this place came up and this was never what we envisaged. We never thought we’d move our pub 30 yards down the road!”

“When the proposition was first put to us, we thought it was a bit crazy - but we changed our minds. There was always going to be an element of apprehension – for me, I left a very stable career, and doing pretty well, to putting all my eggs in one basket for the rest of my life.

"We knew we could translate from next door to here easily in terms of décor and products, but the thing that we couldn’t replicate 100 per cent was that intangible feeling, – the ethos – but I think that comes from the people that come in here – they’re the ones who ‘make it’.

"All of our regulars have been so supportive, and they’ve been really positive about the feel of the place – it’s been great."

According to Jason and Ben, the move has not only been great for business but also the Old Town community - both the punters and the night time economy appear to be reaping the benefits of Devizes Road’s thriving bar scene.

Ben said: “Personally, I think, in this area we’re definitely the premier cask destination in Old Town. But we’re huge supporters of Old Town in general – we want this place to become a destination. We’ve got great links with The Eternal Optimist, Los Gatos and The Tuppenny, – we’re very close personal friends with all of them – and we talk to each other about what we order.

“It’s almost become a little community – with Linda and Jamie, at The Tuppenny, we talk to them about what kind of beers we’re going to have on guest taps, so we don’t clash.

“Our aim has never been to take business away from elsewhere - it’s to produce more business for the area. We’ve tried to keep all the people we’ve used to redecorate as local to Old Town as possible – the lights are from Arc and our builder is also local to the area.”

The bar scene in Old Town has been progressing rapidly over the last few years, seeing revamps and refurbs most recently from The Royal Oak and The Plough and the arrival of the new kid on the block, The Eternal Optimist. Ben said: “Old Town, when I was a kid, was Wood Street – nothing existed outside Wood Street. Now, - I’m not saying Wood Street’s dying a death by any stretch of the imagination - Devizes Road is becoming a bit trendier. I think when Los Gatos moved around the corner, that was the catalyst for it.

“This [Old Town], to me, is starting to feel a lot more like Bristol – it’s got that bohemian feel to it.”

Jason added: "Old Town’s buzzing. There’s definitely a customer divide between the bottom of the hill and the top of the hill, and even now within Old Town there’s become a bit of split between Wood Street divide and Devizes Road.

“The only criticism I’d have of Old Town is the fact that it lacks a destination retail outlet. Let’s say Waitrose had moved into the Coop building that’s a destination, and it would bring people into Old Town during the daytime and that would up the ante with daytime retail outlets, – all the good pubs, clubs and restaurants do that in the evening but you want to do that in the daytime as well – then this would be a fantastic place to be.

“If you took all the bars, restaurants and hairdressers out of Old Town, the place would be a ghost town – which is a shame. The more nice places there are in the area, the more people will visit – simple as that.”

As well as settling in to their new residence, The Hop team will soon be welcoming new neighbours – and starting a new collaboration. Ben said: “We’re going to be re-opening the old place, which is really exciting.

“We’re doing a collaboration with a Bristol Brewery, Arbor. We know the guys at Arbor really well because we’ve been buying their beers for six and half years - they’re just totally the same as us and they make really great beer, they’re really nice people and they’re really laid back.”

The date for the move is yet to be set but, like The Hop, Jason and Ben believe their new neighbour will carry the same ethos that makes Old Town’s night time economy a flourishing community.

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