Cosy Northumberland pub ‘delighted’ to be named Pub of the Year
The Blackbird Inn in Ponteland picked up the accolade earlier this month after a tough couple of years for the hospitality industry
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A tucked-away Northumberland pub that prides itself on its cosy atmosphere has won a heralded award.
The Blackbird in Ponteland scooped up the award for Pub of the Year at the North East England Tourism Awards.
As well as the everyday running, quality and service of the pub, the category took into account how pubs had responded to Covid-19 and the lockdown.
Stuart Young of the Northumberland Pub Company, which operates the Blackbird, spoke to NewcastleWorld about his pride in being crowned the best in the region.
He said: "The team are absolutely delighted.
"We've been nominated for things over the years but hadn't won anything.
"It's certainly a bit of validation for the hard work the team has done."
The Blackbird team put their names in the mix for the award last year but had heard nothing more about it until a couple of months ago.
Stuart said: "We didn't think we'd be winners, we hoped but didn't think.
"When we found out on the night it was big news."
The Blackbird will be shutting slightly early this Sunday as staff members are whisked off to Rio's steakhouse in Jesmond - another award-winning local establishment - to enjoy a night of celebrations.
Like many others in the hospitality industry, Stuart and his team had to navigate the unprecedented times of Covid-19 lockdowns to keep business ticking and maintain relationships with local customers.
He remembered: "The first few days was a shock.
"It was Mother's Day so we contacted everyone who had booked and paid their deposit. We asked them if they'd like to collect their Mother's Day lunch and about 85% said yes.
"After that, there was the shock of, 'what do we do?'
"We re-grouped after 10 days and started doing click and collect for takeaways.
"We then opened doing takeaway coffees at the front door, literally from a table across the door as we couldn't have people come in and pick them up.
"We got involved with Kennedy & Rhind so we offered those goodies at the same time.
"As we came out of lockdown we had our first tipi outside and that became important when we couldn't sit inside in further lockdowns."
When asked what it is about The Blackbird that makes the pub so special, Stuart pointed to its "cosy atmosphere" as being a huge pull for customers.
He said: "We're always trying to make a warm, cosy atmosphere in the pub whether you are just coming for a drink or coming to eat.
"I think that's made a massive difference.
"When the sun shines we have great areas outside for people to sit."