‘A hell of a journey’: Landlord to leave popular pub, but its future seems safe

The future of Lynn’s longest continuously licensed pub looks to be safe – but its current landlord is gearing up for his final weekend in charge.

The White Hart, on St James Street, has been running non-stop since 1623, and in recent years has been transformed into a popular live music spot by Neal Durose.

He took the business on in August 2019, but tomorrow will be his final night in charge before he moves on to pastures new.

The White Hart in Lynn. Picture: Google Maps
The White Hart in Lynn. Picture: Google Maps

Mr Durose, who enlists the help of his partner Leslie in running the pub, has cited rising beer and energy prices on his inability to keep it going on his own.

“I’m an independent at the end of the day. I’m essentially a one-man operation, and I simply can’t afford to do it anymore,” he told the Lynn News.

“People’s habits have changed. The cost of living crisis has impacted everybody, so people just don’t have the money to come out anymore.

Neal Durose and his partner Leslie will run the pub for the final time this Saturday
Neal Durose and his partner Leslie will run the pub for the final time this Saturday

“The only time I see an abundance of people in here is on a Friday and Saturday night when they’re here to watch the music.

“In terms of the pubs around Lynn, I think in the last 20 years we’ve lost a good 75-80% of them – which is very very sad. It seems to me as though the pub is very very quickly becoming a thing of the past.”

There is believed to have been some form of tavern on the site of The White Hart since the 1200s, and its future as a pub looks safe due to it being a listed building.

However, Mr Durose believes that the live music that has become a staple in recent years could come to a halt – and that the introduction of food after he leaves may change its reputation as a wet-led pub.

He first started bringing live bands to the venue four years ago, and has seen punters come from as far as Norwich, Cambridge and Peterborough to watch them.

However, the introduction of pandemic restrictions shortly afterwards proved to be a spanner in the works.

Mr Durose said: “It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster. I’d always had the vision of turning this place into a music venue, and things were really starting to pick up and we were making a really good name for ourselves – and then Covid hit.

“Once the restrictions were lifted, I just went hell for leather – and every Friday and Saturday night since then, I’ve had a band on.”

This Saturday will see Dangerose Restrung perform at The White Hart on its final night under Mr Durose.

Despite suffering a great deal of stress in his time in charge, he looks back on the last four years with great fondness.

“Never in my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined this place becoming the venue that it has,” he said.

“This has been a hell of a journey. I’ve come away with an awful lot of friends.”