Top spot for reborn Tavern

A ONCE semi-derelict "backstreet boozer" in Sheffield is being named today as the national Pub Of The Year.

Real ale enthusiasts have chosen the Kelham Island Tavern as the best pub in the country, completing a remarkable turnaround in its fortunes.

It only reopened seven years ago after Trevor Wraith and Lewis Gonda transformed the ramshackle building in Russell Street on an industrial fringe of the city centre – and it had to close for six weeks when it was deluged in the floods of summer 2007.

But the disaster failed to dampen the enthusiasm of customers and staff – and the reward comes today with the national award from the Campaign for Real Ale, the first Sheffield pub to receive the accolade.

Trevor, licensee and owner, said it usually seemed to go to "thatched country pubs in the south with a big fancy food menu", not "a small back street boozer" between factories.

The award was also good for Sheffield, he said, enhancing the national reputation of Kelham Island for its real ale circuit. "I don't think a lot of people know that the cluster of real ale pubs in the area attracts hordes of people from across the country. They come every weekend. You get to know them by name, even though they live 100 miles away. This will definitely put Sheffield's real ale scene on the map."

The Kelham Island Tavern has been Camra's Sheffield Pub of the Year for the last four years. Members voted it Yorkshire Pub of The Year – the third time – on its way to scooping the top prize.

National judges called anonymously to check the quality of its real ale, customer service, dcor, clientele mix and value for money. Julian Hough, Camra's pubs director and one of the final judges, said: "It truly is a pub for everyone and its attention to detail is fantastic. To have won so many awards in such a short space of time, even enduring a disastrous flood in 2007, is a true testament to the dedication and commitment of its staff."

He described it as "a wonderful example of a well-run community pub".

Trevor said: "It's something we never expected. We didn't even expect to be Yorkshire Pub of the Year, never mind the national one. We won't get carried away but we are well pleased."

Pub manager Lewis said: "We are so proud to have won. This award is due to the excellent brewers we deal with, our faithful and supportive pub regulars and our invaluable staff members."

The pub dates back to the 1830s when it was The Sawmaker. It became The White Hart, then the Kelham Island Tavern under the control of a pub company in the early 1990s. But it was in a sorry condition when Trevor and Lewis took over.

"It was in a bit of a state," said Trevor. "Most of the roof was missing. Where we have made money we have reinvested it. We have built an extension on the back and kept it well appointed inside. We started with almost nothing."

Despite its relatively isolated location, customers responded from the beginning. The creation of a small garden courtyard brought horticultural awards to add to the real ale tributes.

The presentation is being made at lunchtime today but regulars can look forward to their own celebration. There will be "a bit of a do", with a free bar for "the staff and customers who have stuck with us".

lRunners-up were The Crown in Stockport, The Tom Cobley Tavern in Spreyton, Devon, and The Royal Oak in Rusper, West Sussex.

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