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Butcher's Arms: Herne micropub still big success

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The popularity of micropubs has soared across the UK – and it’s all thanks to the world’s first, in the village of Herne.

Martyn Hillier opened the Butcher’s Arms just over a decade ago on November 24, 2005, and estimates he has sold close to a quarter-of-a-million pints of ale in that time.

The award-winning free house in Herne Street is thought to be the smallest in England and was named CAMRA Pub of the Year three years after it opened.

The Butcher's Arms pub sign
The Butcher's Arms pub sign

There are now about 200 micropubs in the country and demand is expected to grow.

Mr Hillier pioneered the idea after transforming his shop, the Canterbury Beer Shop, and he has had visitors from as far away as Norway who wanted to check out the original.

A haven for real ale drinkers, the success of micropubs is down to their place at the heart of the community and their lack of music and fruit machines, encouraging conversation.

The 56-year-old said: “In 2009 I did a presentation for CAMRA at its AGM, which started the ball rolling.

“Micropubs are bringing people back together – it’s about people having a conversation. It’s the norm to talk to strangers in a micropub.”

He says he always knew the concept would work from his following at the beer shop and said he was also in the right place at the right time.

Martyn Hiller has just celebrated the pub's 10th anniversary
Martyn Hiller has just celebrated the pub's 10th anniversary

Mr Hillier thinks the Butcher’s Arms has probably sold about 240,000 pints of ale, with the firm favourite being a best bitter called Old Dairy Copper Top.

He says he often hears stories about people having wonderful experiences in their own town or village micropub – people who had lived in places for years but did not know anyone until they paid a visit to their local.

He has also spoken to breweries worried about closing because so many pubs were shutting down, which have said they can now see a light at the end of the tunnel, due to the popularity of micropubs.

“It’s a real buzz to hear things like that,” he said.

Martyn Hiller behind the bar at the Butcher's Arms
Martyn Hiller behind the bar at the Butcher's Arms

“When it was just me the turnover was about £60,000 – now the micropub turnover is more than £20 million in the UK. It’s easy to get a licence and you can open one for very little money. And it’s good fun.”

To celebrate the milestone, father-of-two Mr Hillier held a celebration at the community hall on Sunday and the rest of the food and drink was polished off by locals at the pub on Tuesday.

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