Having run pubs in Somerset and Wiltshire before moving to be nearer to the family, returning to their old pub wasn’t quite what the Carroll’s expected – but it has supplied them with a new challenge, which they are enthusiastically tackling. “We’ve always had an affinity with it.”
The Carbeile Inn first became home to Steve and Gail in 1997, when they took it on as their second pub with the St Austell Brewery. Gail explains:
“Steve was still in the Royal Navy when we took it on. It was a massive challenge for us, as we’d only had a small village pub before that, but we took the plunge and ended up staying here for 13 years.”
Over those 13 years, they successfully worked through the challenges of the time, including the aftermath of the 2008 recession and the smoking ban, both of which were difficult for the hospitality industry.
A refurbishment in the late 90s took them from strength-to-strength over the next decade. Then, in 2012, Gail, Steve and their two children moved to Taunton to manage an Enterprise Inn’s venue, to be nearer to Steve’s family.
“We ended up doing a little bit of a circuit around the South West: we had two or three pubs in Somerset and then we finished off with a pub in Wiltshire,” explains Gail.
Returning to The Carbeile Inn
Returning to Torpoint and taking on The Carbeile hadn’t been part of any plan, in fact, Gail says, they had been ready to hang up their publican’s hats.
“We were returning to Plymouth to be closer to family, as we’d had a new granddaughter… when we heard that The Carbeile was coming up again! Of course, it piqued our interest to come and have a little look.”
Meeting with St Austell BDM Chris Faulkner, they got talking about refurbishing the pub and giving it a new lease of life. “There’s only a few pubs here, which are mainly drinking pubs, so there’s no real family dynamic within the town.”
But as Covid hit, they ended up only being back at The Carbeile Inn a week before reopening – alongside everyone else on July 4, 2020. As there was no time for a refurb before reopening, it was decided they wait a year to see how the post-pandemic recovery went.
“We really were very lucky with the support from the brewery and also a lot of local people were very happy to see that we were back. We had a good start as far as getting the business of its knees – and we were able to let our personalities shine.”
Refurb over lockdown
With help from the Government schemes, such as Eat Out To Help Out, and by working with their young team to improve morale and provide training, leading from the front, Steve and Gail began to bring The Carbeile back to life.
“Chris saw that we could take this business further, so St Austell’s put us forward for a refurbishment. As we went into another lockdown, just before New Year’s Eve, we had it all in place, so this time, lockdown did us a favour. We managed to finish the refurb over the lockdown period and when we reopened, on May 17, 2021, we had a fully refurbished pub,” says Gail proudly.
The work at the pub also allowed them to create more usable space.
“We moved the bar to open the space into more of a lounge – we created about 35-40 additional covers and it has given us a restaurant area.
“Our son Sean wanted to create a cocktail area on the bar, so he helped hone the plans. It ended up being a very clean, open looking modern bar.”
It’s testament to their management style that The Carbeile has flourished post-pandemic – with the couple happy to roll up their sleeves and get involved.
“If the pots need doing because the kitchen is short staffed, then Steve puts on the Marigolds. If there’s a spillage or the toilets need doing, these aren’t things we pass on to others to do. The staff respect us for it and we are able to help them see the potential in the pub – they just needed somebody to lead them in the right direction.”
Staff morale has never been higher and now Steve and Gail are seeing an increase in staff retention too, thanks to their investment in their staff, including employing kitchen staff on apprenticeship schemes.
Passing Out Parades
Another huge part of the identity of the pub has come from Steve’s Naval background. He explains how their proximity to a Naval training base and the Covid restrictions resulted in a serendipitous Passing Out opportunity.
“We’re only about ¾ of a mile from HMS Rally, which is a new recruit training site. Throughout the Covid restrictions, the base wouldn’t allow any outsiders inside to watch the Passing Out Parades.
“When someone came in for a drink, instead of sitting in their car to watch on their phone their son’s passing out parade, Sean – our IT guru – mentioned he could show it on our screen. It was probably the best thing we have ever done, because now, every week, we show it on the screen and people come in to watch it and have a coffee. We also record it for those who can’t come in person. Then at 4pm, the new recruits pop in for a drink and we show it again. So many people come to see their kids’ Passing Out and now they pop in for a pint too!”
Gail and Steve’s story of returning to Torpoint is one of homecoming, family and renewed vision for the future. It is clear that it’s the ability to grow and adapt which aids their success, and their vision for an updated and relevant Carbeile Inn is just what the town needs, with a sprinkling of personality and authenticity on top.
The Carbeile Inn