From zesty to nesty as pub changes name

Michael Ashurst and Amar Roopra at the Black Swan in Alnwick.
Michael Ashurst and Amar Roopra at the Black Swan in Alnwick.

TWO school friends have joined forces to re-open an Alnwick pub reverting back to its former name.

The Hairy Lemon closed its doors in February when its current owners, Lahdar Leisure, decided to stop trading.

But now former Duchess’s High School pupils Amar Roopra, 29 and Michael Ashurst, 28, have taken over the reins.

And they will be re-naming the pub the Black Swan, its original name before controversially changing to the Hairy Lemon in 2001.

At the time there was an uproar in the community and the Gazette along with community leaders led a petition to stop the name change, with more than 2,500 signatures.

When Amar and Michael took over they decided to change it back as it is part of Alnwick’s history.

The building is owned by Phil Farmer, who also owns the Cook and Barker in Newton on the Moor and Amar and Michael will be working with him to raise the pub’s profile.

Amar said: “I used to work for Phil and when this place became available he approached me with the opportunity.

“Michael and I have been friends since school and have worked with each other for the last four years and decided to go in to business together.”

Michael added: “We’ve both worked in catering since we left school and we are qualified in all areas of the industry.

“We just want to give something back to Alnwick.

“We feel that the local community had something taken away from them when it changed names.

“The pub has history, it is one of Alnwick’s oldest pubs and Robert Burns is believed to have stayed here.

“That history was taken away so we want to give it back.

“The Black Swan name belongs to the pub.”

They see the pub as a long-term development.

It is hoped to be a gastropub serving good food, enticing in a good crowd.

A refurbishment is under way at the moment, with the pub being updated and opened up with lighter colours, and no structural changes and it is hoped that the pub will re-open in around three weeks’ time.

It will also be providing around 12 to 15 full and part-time jobs for the local community.

Amar and Michael have a number of visions for the Black Swan. The upstairs flat could be turned into bedrooms and used as a hotel or bed and breakfast in the future.

The Black Swan will also work alongside the Cook and Barker in terms of events.