Nine months to prove a new-look Bugle Horn can work. Charlton, can we save this historic pub?

The Bugle Horn: Come on in, the Harvey's Best Bitter is lovely

The Bugle Horn has new management determined to turn Charlton’s most famous old boozer around – but they don’t have long to prove themselves. With owners Punch Taverns already planning a sale, will the Charlton community rally round to save the pub?

The Charlton Champion sent a drinking party into the pub last night, and we’re pleased to report the changes have already begun. The England flags have gone, while the TV screens have been switched off – no more Sky Sports News on 24/7. Whisper it quietly – there’s a decent jukebox in there, and it’s currently free. And what’s even more welcome – the bar staff actually say hello to you when you come in.

Let’s be frank. The old Bugle wasn’t the most welcoming of places. We wish the old management well, but they made it clear that they saw themselves as managing decline. Strangers didn’t exactly get the warmest of welcomes either – one night after a Charlton home match, a couple of us watched as a customer was bawled out for the crime of asking for a pint of Coke. “We don’t serve Coke in pints here!” (He got his pint in the end.)

The old Bugle wasn’t a place you could take your pals. When we planned the old Charlton Champion meet-ups, it was with some embarrassment that we realised we honestly couldn’t use the two pubs in the village because they were so unwelcoming.

But all that’s changing. Forget the past. It’s safe to drink in the Bugle again.

Wasted space: This car park could become a farmers' market

New manager Stephen Ruffle’s come in with a brief to sharpen up the old pub’s act. He’s already done a good job of The Honor Oak in Forest Hill – a fine pub with a wide range of customers. Now he wants to see if he can do the same in Charlton.

But there isn’t long. The Charlton Champion has discovered that estate agents have been in, with Punch Taverns wanting to get the Bugle off its books. Effectively, there’s about nine months to turn the place around. If the Bugle is to stay as a pub, it needs support. So it needs you to drink in there.

To lure you inside, the kitchen’s getting a desperately-needed revamp. Once that’s done, the pub’s promising reasonably-priced, quality food.

Stephen’s also got plans for a quiz night, an open mic night and live music too. A pool table’s coming in – and the women’s darts team are coming back. Even better, he’s looking at using the car park at the back of the pub – an enormous wasted space – for a farmer’s market.

The Bugle’s got heaps of potential, and Stephen’s open to ideas – so pop in and say hello to him or Louis, who’s taking care of things day-today there.

If you’re one of those people who have grumbled about the lack of decent pubs in Charlton – well, now’s your chance to help create one. If buyers see a thriving pub, they’re more likely to keep it that way.

We’ll be doing our bit by having a Charlton Champion meet-up there soon – watch for the date. But in the meantime, if you’ve got a thirst on, you don’t have to schlep to Greenwich or Blackheath any more – it’s time to rediscover the Bugle.

You can follow the Bugle Horn on Twitter (@TheBugleHornPub) or on Facebook.

UPDATE, 16 June: The Bugle Horn is now on the market for £1.5 millon.

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19 thoughts on “Nine months to prove a new-look Bugle Horn can work. Charlton, can we save this historic pub?

  1. JQ June 10, 2015 / 14:52

    OK Darryl – you know one neighbour who’s up for a drink.

  2. David Ramzan June 10, 2015 / 20:37

    Well I do not recognise the description of the Bugle as you posted it at all. I’ve been a regular of the pub and your scathing attack on the previous landlords and customers is scandalous.
    So, no Sky sports. Then don’t expect much custom during the football season especially for Charlton Athletic home matches, but perhaps that’s just what the new tenants want? If you are not aware The Bugle Horn was once the headquarters of club when they moved to The Valley and turned professional.
    I will forward your post to the Charlton Athletic Supporters Facebook page.

    • Darryl Chamberlain June 10, 2015 / 21:00

      I think you’ve read a little too much into this, David. I only said the TVs had been turned off so Sky Sports News wasn’t on 24/7 – nothing about them cancelling Sky Sports. And who’s attacking the customers?

      No pub in Charlton can depend solely on the same old dwindling crowd, augmented by 30 CAFC matchdays. If it’s to survive, it has to broaden its offer rather than staying in a continued sulk about the smoking ban.

      Perhaps you could pop in and speak to the new team – who are in touch with CAFC – rather than jump to hilariously over the top conclusions.

      • Darryl Chamberlain June 10, 2015 / 21:17

        Oh, and I remembered something – Stephen’s a Charlton fan. So there’s even less incentive to upset the matchday crowd by doing whatever you’re imagining, David.

      • David Ramzan June 11, 2015 / 07:41

        The article implies the pub was unwelcoming which reflects on those whom also used the Bugle, in my hilariously over the top opinion. I presume then that live sport will continue to be shown whenever it is on, which is pretty much 24/7?

  3. J Mark Dodds June 11, 2015 / 01:33

    It’s amazing the people at the Bugle Horn lasted as long as they did and it’s testament to their skills that they did. The pub is always clean, rhe beer’s well looked after, the food’s good value and overall it’s been run really well… The people who leased the pub before the crisis management was sent in by Punch are not the problem. Punch is the problem. Both the White Swan and the Bugle Horn have been ruined by their tenure under Punch Taverns. Punch is running its estate down for cash to pay debt interest on loans the company used to buy pubs like these in the first place. Punch isn’t a pub company it’s an asset stripping corporate zombie.

    Get the Bugle Horn listed ACV pronto. Raise the money among the community and buy it.

  4. Steven June 11, 2015 / 07:10

    Whoever wrote this is an absolute deluded prick haha, hasn’t got a clue

    • Paul C June 11, 2015 / 09:56

      Darryl writes that the Bugle sometimes felt unfriendly, you – presumably a regular – call him a deluded prick. Well played!

  5. stephen ruffle June 11, 2015 / 11:54

    The Bugle Horn will be continuing to show live sport!!

  6. Charlton girl June 11, 2015 / 17:15

    Well mr chamberlain what a load of bull you are chatting I take it u we’re not a regular at the bugle otherwise you wouldn’t have so much bull to talk the last landlord and landlady done an extremely good job running the pub for so many years all the lovely loyal customers they have coming through the doors functions that have been had there weddings Christiings not to mention all the oap parties Bernadette and lee put on for FREE at Christmas children’s Christmas parties ect the homemade cooking in a lovely clean kitchen I take it u never went into the kitchen ???? Which was by the way graded a 5 star and always greeted with a smile by the lovely hard working dedicated staff the landlord and landlady had to leave due to very ill health as you would no that if you were a regular customer I hear most of the customers are drinking else we’re now so doesn’t that say something so u no what u can do with ur horrible comments !

  7. Chris June 11, 2015 / 19:50

    And there’s me worried about the use of apostrophes.

  8. Neil C June 11, 2015 / 20:44

    I guess it was great if you were a proper regular, but it was never particularly welcoming as an occasional visitor (and the beer was pretty variable, I found). I think pubs need to work hard to attract a broader audience than just the regulars plus football crowd – particularly where the pub’s a decent size. Nothing more depressing than a 3/4 empty pub on a week night. Good luck to the new managers.

  9. Paul Breen June 11, 2015 / 21:05

    I do agree that the tone here about the previous owners came across as quite harsh. I am not sure that is how it was intended though, knowing the work that Daryl does for Charlton. I believe the message is that the pub is just intending to become a bit more diverse. I don’t think though that we should dismiss the past customers out of hand though because those past customers ranged from local politicians to former World Darts champions, to the many people of different nationalities that I have brought in there, in my job as a university lecturer. I have drank in there with people from Vietnam, Korea, Turkey, Nepal, Ireland, and England (even if they avoided the triumphalism that might normally be associated with the display of their flag) * joke!
    However it should be stressed that the Bugle Horn of past years had a good atmosphere because of its regulars and there is a need to get those regulars back in if the Bugle is to be a success. It is also important to remember that the new owners have not criticised the previous owners in any way as far as I can see, and they deserve our support. Lee and Bernie did a good job, although in truth they were more focused on existing customers than on newcomers. Yet, they did support community events when called upon, and once they got to know people they were very friendly and welcoming. In my own case, they helped me advertise my book even though there was nothing in it for them and they also helped Charlton Athletic Community Trust with distribution of leaflets.
    There was a good loyal support base there and even if I was not really a part of that, being more on the fringes, I didn’t see that as a bad thing.
    The new owners appear to be planning on building upon this strong base rather than rejecting it so we should give them our support. I have looked up some of their work in their other pub in Honor Oak and they have some cool ideas.
    I don’t know Lee and Bernie very well but I have no doubt they would want to see the Bugle doing well, and they would want to see people supporting the new owners.
    So basically I think we should all come together and help to make the new Bugle work whilst at the same time recognising that many of us were quite happy that this was our local pub before.
    I have to be honest and say that Lee & Bernie could not have survived on the basis of the money that I spent there over the past seven years – maybe twenty pounds a month on average, sometimes more if I went there with groups and they spent twenty pounds too. They survived on the basis of their regulars, and if the new pub is to be financially successful it probably does also need a combination of regular customers and footfall such as me and the missus; people who don’t work in Charlton but live here. We would love a nice local pub that serves good grub that we can call into at least once a week and spend our time and money in, rather than Greenwich and Blackheath.
    Let’s make the Bugle Horn into that place and don’t for one minute think that anyone doesn’t appreciate the efforts Lee and Bernie made. Yes, they could have done with some better management of introductions to new customers but once you got to know them, and the pub, they were very friendly and welcoming.
    I am sure the new owners will be the same and I look forward to drinking there when it is done up in its new incarnation. I have already been there by the way on Monday night, so still doing my bit to support my local pub.
    On the whole, I think the future’s bright in Charlton if we stick together and draw on all our resources. Let’s make the place as diverse as possible and draw on all possible sources of income in the coming months! Looking forward to the pub quiz and will happily help arrange readings by some local authors too.
    Paul Breen

  10. ThePirateKing June 23, 2015 / 20:18

    It’s been all over twitter today, but just to say here that the Charlton Society today learned that their application to get an ACV (Asset of Community Value) for the Bugle Horn was successful.

  11. Val July 20, 2015 / 01:54

    Firstly, to the uneducated in the public house trade please refrain from publicating non factual information of which you presume or assume to be true.
    Lee and Bernadette only left The Bugle Horn due to Lee’s ill health.
    After 25 years this is a massive culture change and had this not been the case they would still be there.
    This pub has been the centre of the community during they’re time as landlord/landlady. Supporting local community groups such as The Charlton Society, The Red Bus Group, Saint Luke’s Church, the local CO-OP, Charlton Disabled School, The Irish dancing school and so on, (and I could go on and on)!!
    The complaints about the now Bugle Horn are numerous.
    However you would only notice if you were a regular, which I doubt of the numerous single minded morons commenting on this ridiculous page.

  12. David Ramzan July 21, 2015 / 18:05

    Well written Val, I’m very glad to read so many posts in support of Lee and Bernie. It is a shame that the future of the Old Bugle Horn seemed to be in doubt after they left, but at least with the ACV it may stop developers turning it into flats if it is sold on. Unbelievably to agents whom are selling the pub for Punch Taverns had it up for sale as a non listed property, even though I contacted them to inform them that they were misrepresenting the property for sale they were adamant it was not listed. Eventually, however, the agents did have to agree that it was listed after I supplied them with the Grade II registration number after contacting both the Royal Borough of Greenwich and listed buildings registrations. Hopefully the new tenants will make a go of it and build up that community spirit again which was there when Lee and Bernie ran it. I went into the Bugle a few weeks ago on a Saturday and there were only two customers plus one barman, so the survival of the public house may be down to the business created when Charlton are playing at home.

  13. David Ramzan July 21, 2015 / 18:19

    Well just read the link above my previous post, seems that the Old Bugle has been locked up and securely bolted. Punch Taverns just want the building off it’s hands, same as the Swan. Real shame as I doubt anyone will come in and take on such a venture as running a pub in the current financial climate, as the old saying goes, you don’t know what have until it’s gone.

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