Times are changing at a popular Spalding hotel which now has a new owner.
Publican Nigel Wilkins (71) is looking forward to a well-earned retirement with wife Michelle after more than 30 years behind the bar of The Red Lion.
He has sold the historic Market Place hotel to Jeremy Powell, who was delighted to reopen the outside space to customers yesterday.
Mr Wilkins said: “I have always felt it a privilege to be the caretaker of the insitution that is The Red Lion. Hopefully we did a reasonable job while we were there.
“We have had some wonderful times. We have some customers that have been drinking in there for as long as I have been there. It just shows what a wonderful job my staff have done over the years.”
Mr Wilkins, who returned to Spalding in 1980 after working in The Savoy Hotel in London and took over Isabelle’s Pantry in the White Horse, undertook a major restoration project at the hotel after purchasing his share from Bill Pettit in 1986.
While keeping a traditional look in the hotel’s bar, work to the building’s structure was carried out along with transforming the hotel’s bedrooms.
Mr Wilkins has thanked his staff Lucy Pettit, Lorraine Buckingham, son John Wilkins, wife Michelle and the housekeeping team for their support and hard work.
Over the last 35 years, The Red Lion has supported numerous charities. It has also hosted a successful blues music club, run by Richard and Cynthia Howell, along with having bands playing on the Market Place. It also had a popular golf club, which was started by Charlie Granger.
Mr Wilkins said: “I would like to wish Jeremy all the very best.”
Mr Powell was inspired to buy the hotel, which is believed to date back to the 1600s, after being charmed by its history and architecture.
He said: “When the pub came onto the market, I was very fortunate to be successful in buying it. I can see it has a lot of potential and I am very excited.
“There are a lot of regulars that drink in the very successful bar but I am not going to strip it back and modernise it. I am
going to keep the feel. This will be somewhere for people to have a coffee or a few drinks with family and friends. It is going to be a traditional environment.”
Due to current restrictions, Jeremy and the team are unable to reopen the bar until May 17 when indoor hospitality is allowed, but have plans to increase the outside seating area.
He has bought additional tables and chairs.
Mr Powell said: “We are going to make it an asset for Spalding. It is a really lovely building and a nice space to be in to sit outside and enjoy the Market Place.”