Licensees Peter and Julie Lodge have two reasons to toast their success.
Not only have they been pulling pints at the same pub for three decades. But for 30 years running they have got a mention in the drinkers’ handbook, the prestigious Good Beer Guide.
The couple, who run The Will Adams, a backstreet boozer in Gillingham, have defied all odds to keep their business afloat.
At a time when about 20 hostelries a week are calling last orders across the UK and, compounded with Covid, a hike in business rates and the cost of living crisis, the Lodge’s have bucked the trend.
And they’ve got their loyal regulars and football fans to thank for their long-running winning streak.
But Peter, 65, born and bred in Medway, is the first to admit it’s not been easy.
He said: “A lot of people go into it with rose-tinted glasses and then fall on their face. It’s hard work.”
Brought up in the licensing trade, he helped his parents Peter and Ann run the Fleur de Lis, also in Gillingham, in his spare time.
When he left Upbury Manor School, now Brompton Academy, he got a job as a train driver with British Rail.
Fifteen years later he left to work on the Channel Tunnel construction project and then in 1993, he took on what was then called the Anglo Saxon in Saxton Street.
He recalled the place was in a “terrible state”.
He said: “It was not habitable. I was living in one room on a mattress while Julie was living at our house nearby. It took weeks before we could get the furniture moved in.”
Peter decided on the change of name in a bid to rid it of its “undesirable” reputation.
And like the success of the Gillingham-born explorer of the same name, who became the first Englishman to travel to Japan, it worked and business started to flourish.
Peter, an ardent Gillingham FC supporter and season ticket holder of 25 years, started to draw in fellow fans, who often pop in for a pre or post-match pint.
The convivial atmosphere and football banter also attracts some away visitors travelling to nearby Priestfield Stadium.
Julie, 63, his wife of 47 years, has become a Gills follower over the years.
She said: “I hadn’t been to a match before and the only way I could get him to ask me out was to go with him to see a game. It was our first date.”
One of their few breaks away was to Doncaster for a weekend which they tied in with an away match.
Peter has seen many pubs in his neighbourhood close their doors over the decades. Indeed, he has a record of 33 pubs within a mile radius which have shut over the last 30 years.
Peter keeps the grim list behind the bar to remind him of his good fortune.
His secrets? Keeping his beer in good condition and keeping it varied, which he has been able to do more so since buying the pub from the brewery, Charringtons, and becoming a free house.
Another factor is the loyalty of regulars including members of the four darts teams who started playing when they were young lads and are now middle-aged men, some of whom have moved away from Gillingham.
The couple, who have two daughters, have been congratulated for their remarkable achievement of appearing in the Good Beer Guide every year since it was taken over by CAMRA which compiles the publication.
Representative Tony Page, who presented them with a certificate, said: “ I have had the pleasure of using this pub for the last 29 years and hope there will be many more to come.
“Unlike many other local premises, The Will Adams has survived through thick and thin, mostly on the quality of ales and the character of the landlord Peter along with his wife Julie.”
Peter said they have stayed so long because: “It’s our social life and it earns us a living.”
Of working alongside each other, Julie added: “We’re friends. We get on well.”
Their family, including son-in-law, Simon Weller help out behind the bar.