The Highlands Inn, Uckfield, is being taken over by the Ridley family who run the Cock Inn at Ringmer.
Ian and Val Ridley, who took on the lease of the Cock nine years ago, are signing a 20 year lease for the Highlands, which will be run alongside The Cock by their sons Nick and Matt, with HR input from daughter Caroline.
Ian and Val have been in the area since 1986.
Ian said they wanted to restore the popularity of the Highlands to that of its heyday when run by Harry Butler. At that time the Ridleys lived in Pipers Field, Ridgewood, and remember it well.
The plan is to refurbish the pub. It will be decorated outside and have new signs but the real change will be inside where it will be completely stripped out and refurbished.
The lighting will be changed and the “dark and oppressive” wood panelling will be painted. The end result will be contemporary.
There will be a soft sports bar, with a light menu, where a range of sporting events, such as football, rugby and cricket matches will be screened.
Then there will be a more formal dining area with different size tables and a fixed banquette in the middle to facilitate family gatherings.
Ian said: “There will be a tremendous opportunity for local clubs and societies to have space for meetings and we will be able to hold dinner dances, have live music and discos supporting our Christmas menus.”
Businesses complement each other
He saw the two businesses, The Cock and Highlands Inn, complementing each other. The Cock has a big following from Uckfield and there are times when the pub is so busy they are turning people away.
He added: “We would like to stress that The Cock will continue to be run by the family and our experienced team of staff, and that there will no discernible changes.
“The Highlands will be run with our same core family values, offering something for everyone, be it taste, age, diet, appetite or budget and we recognise that it is an important community asset.”
Manager at the Highlands will be Natasha Tulley, who has worked for Harveys for many years including the Pig and Butcher at Five Ash Down.
Nick and Matt Ridley will oversee both locations and Ian and Val will be involved in both sites too.
The Ridleys had never run a pub before taking on the Cock. Ian had worked for 30 years in corporate finance but in the past nine years the Cock, which already had a good reputation, has been taken to a much higher level.
Ian said: “It is very popular with a good reputation but we have to work at it. It’s a bit like football managers say: we’re only as good as the last game. We can’t be complacent.”
He added he was very excited about the future. Negotiations over the Highlands had been under way for more than a year but now the pace was accelerating.
“We think this is a prime site and if we can get the Highlands back to the way Harry Butler had it that would be great,” he said.
*Chartered surveyors Oldfield Smith & Co acted for Ian Ridley in carrying out a survey of the Highlands early on in negotiations.
Director and head of professional services Bernard Smith said: “I can see this becoming a hugely popular and successful place in the right hands and Ian seems to be the ideal person to achieve that.”