The incredible story of the thriving Hull pub brought back from the brink by its punters

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A landlady who feared she would lose her family home and her beloved Witham pub has revealed how community spirit has enabled her to keep hold of her livelihood.

Last May, Maggie Richardson revealed how she was fighting to keep the Red Lion pub open following the death of her husband Kev in August 2017.

The couple were together for 20 years and married just weeks prior to Kev’s death from brain cancer.

It left her devastated, and in the wake of his death Maggie admitted the future of their pub was in jeopardy following a plunge in trade in the Witham area.

Speaking at the time, she said: “It would be heart-breaking to see it go under because Kev was a big part of this pub. We always said we would wait until the kids grew up to get married but we never got round to it until he had weeks left to live.

Maggie feared she would lose her pub after experiencing dwindling trade in the early part of 2018
Maggie feared she would lose her pub after experiencing dwindling trade in the early part of 2018

“This is the job I love doing and it’s soul destroying to think it might have to shut down. We are really worried that we might have to close down and at the end of the day this is our family home.”

After making people aware of the pub’s plight, boozers in Witham rallied round to support each other and reignite trade in the area.

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Maggie, who is 56, said: “A lot of the landlords pulled together and we organised special money off nights so people could get drinks for £2.50 in a few of the pubs on a Friday night.

“We did that for a few weeks as these ‘Witham Revival Nights’ and it proved to be quite successful. From the story last May we’ve had people come in and offer to work for free and people booking our function room for private parties and the response has just been phenomenal.

From left: Susan Leamon, Katie Warner and Maggie Richardson behind the bar at The Red Lion
From left: Susan Leamon, Katie Warner and Maggie Richardson behind the bar at The Red Lion

“We used to have to shut Friday nights and shut early other nights but now I’m open all night and all day. It’s not booming like it used to be around here all those years ago but I have seen a massive improvement in my public house.”

Grandma-of-four Maggie described Witham as a “ghost town” last year with less than 30 people coming through the doors on a typical Saturday night in early 2018.

 

She would have to cut back on orders to save the pennies but now she does not have to worry about scrimping and saving to make ends meet.

Maggie, who lives above The Red Lion, said: “I can get my bills paid now without thinking, ‘am I going to take enough to pay my bills?’”

Pubs in the Witham area have come together to support one another and boost trade
Pubs in the Witham area have come together to support one another and boost trade

“It’s lovely to see a buzz in the area and it’s a shame that a couple have shut like The Holderness and The Windmill but other pubs like The Kingston have been taken over by someone new and had a revamp so we’re hoping that might bring more people to the area.”

Kev still holds a special place in Maggie’s heart and a memorial night for the popular DJ was held last year with another planned for 2019.

Maggie with her husband Kev who tragically died from brain cancer last year just weeks after they got married
Maggie with her husband Kev who tragically died from brain cancer last year just weeks after they got married

After last year’s struggles she likes to think he would be proud of everything she has achieved over the last 11 months and she hopes Witham can continue to grow on its recent success.

 

“He would be pleased to see us and the area doing so well,” Maggie said. “This is our home and it was a worry but it has taken a lot off my mind to be able to not have any worries about paying the bills.

“The atmosphere is brilliant here, especially when on a Friday night and when we do karaoke on a Sunday.

The Red Lion pub in Witham
The Red Lion pub in Witham

“To our customers old and new – thank you. The support has been overwhelming and a massive thank you to everyone has stuck by us.

“Stay with us and hopefully you can watch us get better and better.”

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