Back Your Boozer: racing towards a brighter future

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Times are changing for the local pub, so it seems fitting that the Black Horse in Bilton village is quietly reinventing itself.

The foundations are strong; the pub was named Small Business of The Year and was honoured for its customer service at the Rugby Business Awards last year.

But now it is moving forward under the new stewardship of a born-and-bred Bilton woman.

Liz Friel started working at the Black Horse 12 years ago, and has been the manager for two years.

Four months ago, the opportunity arose to buy the tenancy, and she jumped at the chance.

She said: “To eventually to run the business myself is a giant step, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

“I’ve grown up with everybody in the village, so it’s nice to come and take on the pub at the centre of it.”

Handsomely refurbished just over a year ago, the pub is poised for a relaunch, after new beers, ciders and ales have been fitted.

“We’re going do three main ales and then one guest ale,” said Liz, “but it’s going to be up to the customers to choose that guest ale.

“We’ll have a board where they can vote for their favourite, and then the next week we’ll have that one in.”

This is sure to go down well with the locals, who already appreciate the beers on offer.

“It’s the best pint of Abbot in Rugby,” said a regular customer who did not wish to be named.

“They’ve got a good selection of ales.”

“It’s a clean, friendly local with good beer and a good atmosphere,” adds Steve Roberts of Magnet Lane.

“It’s a nice relaxing place to come and have a pint, and as part of the community, the local pub is very important.”

This is no mere platitude; over the past two years the pub’s charity evenings have raised over £3,000 for good causes.

The next chapter for the Black Horse begins on Friday 5 April, with a re-launch party with live music from The Vadiers.

But a pub is nothing without good beer, and The Black Horse continues to do well on that front.

It’s been awarded a Casque Mark and is on Rugby CAMRA’s list of independent real ale pubs.

So the place is living up to its name as a dark horse – and the future seems bright.