THE NEW faces behind the bar of a much-loved Wokingham pub are familiar – and no wonder, they were recommended by the retiring landlords.
Danny and Shelley Mountain have taken the reins of The Emmbrook Inn in Emmbrook Road, stepping into the rather large shoes of John and Christine Hibbert, who retired last month.
The duo are well-known around Wokingham for their musical talents and Danny has performed as Elvis and The Blues Brothers for their predecessors.
Danny said: “I first came in here with my brother-in-law years ago, when we’d moved back from Cyprus – they had an Elvis night on, where everyone was dressing up as Elvis. I said, ‘Well, I’m an Elvis impersonator’ and I did the night and become friends with John.
“From then on, I have been performing maybe three or four times a year.
“It means I knew all the locals.”
And Shelley added: “Danny’s Mum came down from London to watch him. She said that she felt like was in a living room because John and Christine were so welcoming.”
Danny said that the couple had been talking about whether they could take the pub on for a couple of years: John and Christine wanted to go travelling around Europe and then retire.
“We’d looked at stuff in the past, like on the coast,” Danny said. “We’d always kept an eye out but never enquired, it was something we thought we’d like to do in the future.
“John asked me to do his retirement party, and we didn’t have any intention of taking over the pub. But I saw on Facebook that they were still looking for a tenant.”
He discussed the idea with Shelley, who admitted that they were intrigued about the idea. They talked it over with John, who said: “You two would be great, especially with the entertainment side”. John put a good word in with the brewery, which led to a meeting – after all, Shelley admits, “He wanted to leave the pub in safe hands”.
The result is that the Mountains are now in the midst of a trial period to see if they like being landlords as well as entertainers.
“Greene King, who own the pub, will carry out a refurb from January,” Shelley said, and Danny added: “It sort works in both parties favour that okay, we can keep the pub open over the Christmas period, we can come in, we can try it and see if it’s right for us.”
The couple are aware of the legacy they have inherited: John and Christine had managed several pubs in Wokingham and built the Emmbrook Inn up as a community pub.
“It’s big shoes to fill,” Shelley said. “But the locals have been absolutely amazing, they’ve been fantastic.
“We really trying to run it along the lines of what they’ve been doing.”
They will also be making their own stamp on the pub, planning to enhance the entertainment that John and Christine offered, including the popular pub quiz. Part of this will be a Blues Brothers music night on Friday, December 6, which will see Danny perform.
But he’s just as happy behind the bar as on the stage.
“I love the job actually,” he said. “For the Rugby World Cup, I opened up and expected half-a-dozen people, I said I’ll do some bacon sandwiches and things, but we had 40 people in here. I threw myself in the deep end.
“I also take the bookings and everything for the attached hotel, I really enjoy that side of the job too.
“We’re very much looking forward to the Christmas rush.”
Going forward, Danny and Shelley hope to open for longer during the day, and enhance the food offerings, with the possibility of daily deals and offers. There may also be events such as bingo and music quizzes.
“We’ve got all these ideas, but we don’t know what’s going to work, so we’re going to try a whole host of different things,” Shelley said. “It’s not going to be turning it into a whole entertainment bar, there’s a balance to be had with the sports side. It’s finding the balance.”
She added: “It’s not like we’re taking on a failing business. We’ve taken on a successful business where the people are just retiring. We just want to see what strengths we can bring.”
But above all else, they want to ensure that every customer continues to feel welcome.
Danny said: “There’s nothing worse than walking into a bar and not being welcome – you want it be a nice atmosphere to welcome people when they come in.
“It’s exciting. We’re excited.”