Our weekly features on pubs have have shown that Rugby has, broadly speaking, two types: the ‘locals’ with a loyal following, and the town centre pubs that move with the times to attract customers.
Tucked away around the corner from the marketplace, The Black Swan - better known as the Dirty Duck - has been an institution for decades. Family-owned since 1958, it has changed greatly over the years, and continues to do so.
In recent years, it was popular with younger generations who enjoyed the late-night party atmosphere.
But, unknown to many, the Duck is reinventing itself as a relaxed watering hole for the discerning drinker; more a sedate real-ale pub than a lively nightspot. “It’s a bit of everything,” says manager Andy Pyatt, who has worked here for 18 years.
He describes the Duck as a pub of two halves: the “loud bit” with a jukebox, games machines and a pool table, and the quieter family eating area.
“We’re a town centre pub that caters for everyone,” he says. “It’s not just for the younger crowd anymore.
“We were one of the first late night pubs in Rugby, but now we’re not interested in the late night thing. Rugby has changed and there’s a much more discerning crowd here now.”
The new, more relaxed Black Swan seems to meet with the customers’ approval. I meet regular punters Andre Chilver and John Richmond as they gently tease a member of staff - an example of the friendly banter that makes many pubs tick.
“It’s definitely changed now,” says John, who remembers the pub’s nightclub-style era. “Nice bar staff, nice beer and nice food. You can come in here for breakfast anytime of the day.”
“I think it’s quite classy in here compared to some other places,” says Andre. “It’s a really friendly atmosphere and I’ve had no trouble in here whatsoever.”
If the Duck has one unique selling point, it has to be its large, covered beer garden. The onset of warm weather always sees the place thrive, and this year will see the opening of an outdoor bar to cement its unofficial title as Rugby’s summertime pub.
“We’re changing and building the reputation of the pub using word-of-mouth rather than advertising,” Andy says. “It’s taking its time, but I’d rather we did it that way.
“We’re trying to get back to the way pubs used to be.”