THE worst kept secret in Saddleworth can now be revealed – Jason Worthington is the new landlord of Greenfield’s Clarence public house.
Nearly five months after the hostelry, at the junction of Manchester Road and Chew Valley Road, shut its doors to an uncertain future, it is open for business again.
And Jason, who has turned the Royal George Hotel just further down Manchester Road into one of Saddleworth’s pub success stories, is the man charged with leading another revival.
The first pints were pulled on Friday, June 29 and the first meals will be served later this month as part of an on-going project to transform the Clarence’s fortunes.
The dual sites employ around 70 full and part-time staff after 25 newcomers were recruited from 125 applicants.
“They all know what I want and what I expect,” said Jason. “So, initially I will be ping-ponging between the two pubs.
“It will be very much a food led pub, it won’t be a typical boozer. Drinkers will be welcomed obviously but we have to serve meals to survive.
“That’s what we found with the George. You won’t survive just doing drinks.”
The Clarence will offer 72 covers plus standing and bar area inside and another 100 in the beer garden as part of a six-figure refurbishment.
And there are more plans in the pipeline, with attention turning to the previously unused upstairs space.
“We have ideas for turning it into a function room or accommodation, I am not sure yet,” added Jason whose opening weekend coincided with running the bar at Wellifest and Saddleworth Show.
It looks like a massive challenge but one Jason has no doubts he can handle.
“I am used to working in that environment,” he explained.
“The last event I did before coming into the pub industry was Amir Khan’s wedding and that was for 3,000 people.
“But we successfully ran that on behalf of the main contractor so I am used to big projects and multi sites.
“Besides, we have had a top of the range CCTV system installed at the George so I don’t have to be there all the time to see what is going on. We have had the same installed at the Clarence.”
The Clarence is owned by Enterprise Inns while Jason and wife Nicky have been answering to JW Lees at the Royal George.
“I have given assurances to JW Lees that I will be doing nothing to harm what we have done at the Royal George,” he said. “That would be pointless.
“There is just scope with Enterprise to do a lot more local stuff with the likes of Donkeystones, Greenfield and Millstone Breweries.
“The range of products from JW Lees are great and work. But they have 150 pubs and EI have got 5,000. Besides, it would be pointless replicating exactly the same at both sites.
“My belief is Saddleworth suffers from a glut of neglected pubs which is quite sad.
“It’s an affluent area, lots of nice people, lots of visitors and deserves to have some decent boozers.
“I am hoping this is the start of a revolution and other people may see the pub trade isn’t dead.
“It’s all about applying enthusiasm and hospitality.”
Jason even admits he would be happy to run a third pub.
“But not for the time being,” he smiled. “I am in it as a business. When we leave we want to leave it as a successful business. It has got to survive once we finish.”
That won’t be for some considerable time but Jason admitted: “I am very nearly qualified as a pilot. That is my exit plan in five to seven years. I am doing that as well as running two businesses.
“So, when you ask where is your time going to come from, I will be able to manage.
“The Clarence was closed so the only way now is up. We have made a massive financial commitment and we are praying it pays off.
“When we took over the George we were petrified. But we stuck with it and turned it into what it is today. And the Clarence is going to be on an equal par with it.”