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How pub life began young for Argyle Arms landlady Julie

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 26, 2014

  • WARM WELCOME . . . Julie Kirk and Rob Grice with regulars Carl and Jo Chamberlain.

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JULIE Kirk pulled her first pint at the tender age of 11, so she was never in much doubt that she would one day end up running her own pub.

She said: "When I was young my mother and grandma used to work at a pub in Derby, and even at that age I was addicted to the pub life. I loved the smell of it and it filled me with a sense of belonging.

"My mum and grandma were cleaners in the morning and my mum was back for bar work in the evenings."

That was The Vulcan Arms on the bottom of Dairy House Road in Derby, the city where Julie was born and bred before she later moved to Burton.

"As soon as I got off the bus from school I used to go straight to the pub and my mum. That's how I ended up pulling my first pint at 11. I guess I have always loved the pub life."

Julie later worked at the Gate Inn at Branston and at The Wetmore Whistle in Burton, before taking on her own pub.

Julie and partner Robert Grice took over the Argyle Arms in November 2009, which proved a baptism of fire.

She said: "We started out as managers but after two weeks the company went bust, leaving us in limbo.

"We lost weight, we couldn't sleep as we had no idea what was going on. We had no choice but to take on the business and become self-employed as we had given up our home and everything to move to the pub. It was a shock to the system, but five years later we are still here.

"It's had its ups and down but we have recently had a refurbishment and it looks beautiful now."

Punch Taverns eventually decided to invest in the new-look for the pub after much pushing from Julie, who says it has made a big difference already.

"Everyone thinks it looks lovely," she said. "It took five weeks but we never shut at all."

With so many pubs closing, it's good to know the pub has a future.

Julie added: "It has had its ups and downs – but any job does. You have to be a people person, a good listener. You have to be prepared to give advice and to smile when you don't want to.

"You have to be in among the customers rather than being the boss of a pub. We have a lot of good friends who come in here."

One regular has become very close to Julie and Robert.

The caring community spirit of the pub effectively saved a customer's life and now the pensioner lives at The Argyle Arms, after becoming as much part of the place as Julie and Robert.

Julie said: "We have kind of adopted each other, as my parents are gone now. He had nobody on the planet and was always in here, you could set your clock by him. One day he didn't turn up and it was Statutes fair day, but we didn't think in his 70s he had gone there. We rang and rang his house but there was no reply. I said to Robert 'we have to go round'."

Robert and pub regular Carl Chamberlain went to the pensioner's home and could hear a voice inside crying for help.

Julie said: "They had to kick the door in and phone for an ambulance. He had suffered a heart attack and where he had fallen on Sunday night when he left the pub was where he was found the next day. Calling round saved his life. But after he came out of hospital we gave him a home and he's living with us in the pub."

For Julie that just sums up The Argyle Arms and its place at the heart of the community.

"It's about doing the decent thing," she says. "If someone is unwell, they will be walked home. We get worried and upset about the customers and everyone rallies around everyone else. The pub has an important role in the community.

"We are on the corner of Uxbridge Street and All Saints Road and we are the only pub in either street now.

"It's gutting for me to see so many pubs go. It's a lot different these days as people don't look out for each other as much. We have a business and we have to make it pay, but that's not what it's really about for us.

"We have been a safe house for children. I remember us taking in a four-year-old who was screaming in the street. If anyone has a problem and we can help, we do. We all have problems and you don't mind helping – that's part of running a pub. We don't want people sitting in a corner talking to themselves."

On Sunday, September 14, from 3pm to 9.30pm, the pub will be hosting a charity event which includes fire-walking, a disco, a yard of ale, pass the parcel and a raffle, among other events taking place.

The event is in aid of children's cancer charity Little Heroes. The Argyle Arms holds regular charity events and has raised cash for causes such as Help For Heroes.

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