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Pub novices leave school jobs to turn pub into family friendly award-winner

PUBLISHED: 17:52 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:52 16 October 2019

Mick and Jan Bates (left and right) with daughter and son-in-law Hannah and Luke Sofokleous who took over the Fighting Cocks Inn in Winfarthing seven months ago. Picture: Simon Parkin

Mick and Jan Bates (left and right) with daughter and son-in-law Hannah and Luke Sofokleous who took over the Fighting Cocks Inn in Winfarthing seven months ago. Picture: Simon Parkin

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A family more used to classrooms than beer deliveries have seen the pub they took over seven months ago named the most family friendly in South Norfolk.

The family are celebrating after the Fighting Cocks Inn in Winfarthing was named most family friendly pub in South Norfolk. Picture: Simon ParkinThe family are celebrating after the Fighting Cocks Inn in Winfarthing was named most family friendly pub in South Norfolk. Picture: Simon Parkin

The Fighting Cocks Inn in Winfarthing was rewarded for being welcoming to families in South Norfolk's Pub of the Year awards, decided by public vote.

Jan Bates, 57, who took over running the historic village pub with husband Mick, 73, and daughter and son-in-law Hannah and Luke Sofokleous, said the success was a surprise, especially as none of them had run a pub before, having been previously worked in education.

"We are all education based but out of that we decided to buy a pub, which is madness I know!" she said. "It is all completely new to us but sometimes people say it is good to come in with fresh ideas.

Pub novices the family mainoly worked in education before taking over the Fighting Cocks Inn in Winfarthing. Picture: Simon ParkinPub novices the family mainoly worked in education before taking over the Fighting Cocks Inn in Winfarthing. Picture: Simon Parkin

"It has been a big learning curve. We have made mistakes, we have made gains; we are learning as we go really."

Mrs Bates was a previously a school business manager in London and Suffolk, Luke, 31, taught PE and foundation teaching, while Hannah, 30, had been training as a teacher until starting a family.

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Mrs Bates said: "We just needed a break from schools to be honest. The whole family are involved so it seems fitting that we have been named most family friendly.

"Some pubs don't like children but we try to encourage them in because with children comes parents. Also when you have grandchildren running around it makes sense to incorporate other people's children."

Luke and Hannah now live in the pub with children Jack, eight, Freddie, six and Emily, aged 22 months, while Mr and Mrs Bates live in Shelfanger.

Since taking over they have hosted family events including an Easter Bunny egg hunt, May and August bank holiday fun days and have an upcoming Halloween event.

"We think in terms of children," said Mrs Bates.

More: How a family turned a struggling pub into award winning venue

Other pubs recognised in the awards included the Wheatacre White Lion for 'outstanding community focus'; The Countryman at Tasburgh for best customer service; while The Kings Head in Bawburgh was named Community Pub of the Year 2019.

Anton Wimmer, whose family have owned the Kings Head for more than 35 years, said: "I would like to thank the judges and congratulate the other category winners."

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