The Pack Horse pub in the Hyde Park area of Leeds is a historic place. A former Tetley pub with heritage accreditation. Recently, the pub has come under new management and I visited the new team to learn more.
My own history with the Pack Horse is quite light in content. Most visits have been part of the (in)famous Otley Run; a pub crawl that stretches from far Headingley to Leeds City Centre. The route passes lots of pubs and by the time you get to the Pack Horse, things tend to be a little hazy.
Of more significance to me personally, the Pack Horse was the first pub I hosted a branch meeting after I became Leeds CAMRA Chairman.
For others, it’s well-known for being a band venue and has often hosted local musicians.
In recent years, in my opinion, the Pack Horse has seen better days. Fine for a visit on a lengthy pub crawl, but not necessarily my first choice of pub.
For me, the bleak corridor that greeted you as you entered, the lean beer selection, worn carpets and poorly kept toilet facilities, were characteristic of an old pub needing some tender loving care.
In late 2018, the pub (owned by Heineken’s Star Pubs & Bars) came under new management –Jay Teague and Pete Alessi.
“I said ‘bloody hell it’s big!’” mused Jay, when I asked him what his thoughts were when he and Pete first visited the pub. “Jay loved it” added Pete, “straight away he said, ‘that’s it, we’re getting this.’”
Jay is a veteran of the pub game, having spent three and a half years previously at the Brewery Tap in Idle. There’s beer industry blood in the family too; Jay’s sister runs the George in Idle, plus he has a cousin at the Telegraph in Bridlington.
“We were overwhelmed by the welcome” said Pete. “At first, we thought it would be difficult to win people over; it would take time to prove ourselves”.
Pete’s concern wasn’t about the people who frequent the pub, but more about whether he and Jay would be worthy custodians of this historic place.
He and Jay spent some time sprucing up the Pack Horse before opening it up to the public again. A deep clean, a lick of paint and the bleak corridor is no more.
These aren’t the only improvements either. Jay openly shared that the reason the beer selection was lean. It was due to one of the seven cask hand pulls being nothing more than cosmetic, and of the other six, most of them weren’t working.
“I’ve taken out the hand pull that wasn’t connected and the other six are working now” said Jay. “We’ve started being able to get different beers in and I can now do a ‘beer of the week’!”
Jay’s beer of the week is his own personal recommendation. Plus, on occasion, he has offered a small discount for anyone ordering the beer, in the accent of the brewery’s location. It was fun hearing the attempted Cornish accents when people wanted 10p off of their pint of St Austell’s Proper Job!
Each beer I’ve had recently in the Pack Horse has been well cared for and tasty; Jay is a very good cellarman.
It isn’t all about the beer either, Pete is a fan of Botanicals and has his own ‘Gin of the Week’.
Amongst Pete’s former jobs are teaching, and marketing for Team Great Britain Paralympics. So, what’s life like in his first landlord job?
“No-one told me a Landlord was also a caretaker!” laughed Pete, who can often be seen doing DIY jobs around the pub when you visit. “It also pains me to say it, but Jay is a very good teacher!”
One of the lessons perhaps taught by Jay; Pete is meticulous in the detail and can often be spotted shining up the glasses for his beloved gin.
It’s the care and attention to detail that is something Jay and Pete also want to bestow on the team supporting them; Helena, Jack, Ryan, Megan and Martin. “We’re keen to invest time in our staff” adds Pete.
All being well, although Jay and Pete have spruced the place up, the Pack Horse will be getting a refurbishment from Heineken, starting in June 2019.
Plans have already been submitted to Leeds City Council. The intention is to sympathetically restore the pub. Keeping a strong link to its heritage but modernising it.
“It should take 4-6 weeks, once we have planning approval,” Jay told me. “The good news is, though, that the stage is staying upstairs, so we can keep having bands on”.
Jay is passionate about music and the plan is for him to focus on this side of the business, once Pete is fully confident with running the bar himself.
Before the refurb, though, there is lots planned to bring people in. “We’re trying to be ambitious with what we’re doing here” said Jay. “We will have bands before the refurb, with a focus on Leeds-based artists who play jazz, country, folk; not just rock.”
“From January, we’ll also be running a weekly quiz, with different themes like Family Fortunes, Rock and Roll Bingo and Play Your Cards Right.”
There are also plans for Jay to host a tutored rum tasting, and Pete a tutored gin tasting.
Change for the Better
Things have changed at the Pack Horse, and for the better. Although some bits still look a little tired, it’s something only a refurb will fix.
After visiting the pub a few times since Jay and Pete’s takeover, I sent them both an email. These words sum up exactly how I now feel about the pub:
“I’m really impressed with how quickly you’ve transformed the experience of the Pack Horse. The place is clean, bright and you both add high levels of service and friendliness that has made the Pack Horse somewhere I want to spend time”.
You can find the Pack Horse in the Hyde Park area of Leeds. It’s regularly served by bus from Leeds City Centre and is also walkable, if you don’t mind going uphill.
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