Charlton pubwatch: White Swan closes and staff move to the Bugle Horn

The White Swan on Thursday afternoon
The tale of Charlton village’s two pubs has taken another twist, as the staff running the White Swan appear to have decamped to the Bugle Horn, which lost its new management this week after their own bosses declined to pay £30,000 for new cellar equipment.

Concrete barriers appeared outside the Swan this morning and this afternoon a team were moving beer barrels down the Village to the Bugle.

A manager on the scene denied rumours that the Swan was being squatted.

The Swan was recently bought by property firm Mendoza, which specialises in developing flats above pubs. It is currently on the market for £35,000 a year.

Charlton’s Bugle Horn pub revamp ends after £30,000 cellar bill

Bugle Horn

Plans to revive Charlton Village’s Bugle Horn pub have ground to a halt after the leaseholders declined to pay a £30,000 to repair vital equipment in its cellar.

The pub, which has been put up for sale by Punch Taverns, has been run on a short-term lease for the past six weeks after the departure of its long-serving past management.

New manager Stephen Ruffle had been redecorating the pub’s interior and had embarked on a plan to broaden the old boozer’s appeal.

But the firm that’s leasing the pub has baulked at paying £30,000 to repair ale coolers in the cellar, fearing the the cost would not be recouped over the current lease’s short term.

Today (Tuesday) was due to be the last day under Stephen’s management – plunging the pub’s future back into uncertainty. However, the pub was locked and closed this afternoon, with a cleaner at work inside.

Punch is hoping to sell the pub, a Grade II listed building, for £1.5 million – a hefty price tag for a building that’s going to need substantial work to make it fit for the future.

Like its neighbour the White Swan, the pub was last month declared an Asset of Community Value, meaning any sale would have to be paused for six months to allow community groups time to bid. However, it would take a phenomenal effort for such a bid to raise that sum of money.

White Swan

Despite the Swan’s designation as an ACV, that pub is also in troubled times, after it was sold to developer Mendoza Ltd by Punch Taverns.

Rents have been increased and that pub is also on the market – minus the rooms upstairs – for £35,000 per year.

One thing that could boost the fortunes of both pubs would be for Greenwich Council to place an Article 4 direction on them, preventing any change of use. But despite this being raised repeatedly, this hasn’t been forthcoming.

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.