It is one of York’s landmark pubs. But for some time, The Fox Inn on Holgate Road was sadly neglected, even prompting talk of a community takeover.
But now the Fox is back to its best. Still owned by Punch Taverns, it is now run by Ossett Brewery – the company which brought The Hop to Fossgate.
Together, they have invested £300,000 in the Fox and installed a new landlord – Giles Seddon, 30, who could not be more delighted: “It’s a fantastic little place,” he said.
So what’s changed at the Fox?
The new look
The Fox Inn dates from 1878, still has its original compartmented room layout, and is Grade II Listed.
It was last refurbished in 1985 when it became one of the first Tetley’s Heritage Pubs. Giles says it was overdue another makeover.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful job,” he said. “A few months ago there were springs sticking out of chairs. It hadn’t been touched for more than 25 years.”
Regulars will notice a lot of updates.
“We’ve got a new front that covers the bar. Because the bar itself is listed but it wasn’t very attractive.
“We’ve put all new handpulls in, the gantry is all brand new. Everything is brand new, the flooring, the lighting, the fixtures and fittings.”
The car park has also been resurfaced and enlarged.
“There are little compartments all over the place,” Giles added. “We’ve worked on the train theme a little bit, so we’ve got the carriage cables and the old bric-a-brac up as well.”
Get the drinks in
The Fox now has ten handpulls, with three Ossett Brewery beers on permanently: Excelsior (ABV 5.2%, £3.20 a pint); Silver King (4.3%, £3) and Yorkshire Blonde (3.9%, £2.80).
It will also carry each Ossett seasonal brew, recently Maypole.
Some of the guest beers will come from micro breweries, like the one at the Rat And Ratchet, an Ossett Brewery pub in Huddersfield.
Its White Rat bitter is Giles’ favourite beer at the moment. “I can’t think of any other beer which I’d rather drink. It’s just so good.”
There’s a pump devoted to porters and stouts. Staropramen and San Miguel are among the lagers on draught, and there’s scrumpy cider on handpull too.
Food and fun
“We’ve got a huge barbecue out the front and the biggest beer garden in York, so I’m reliably informed,” Giles says. “We’re going to be doing barbecue stuff all the time.
“We’re not going to be doing a la carte from the off, but it’s an option for the future.”
Live music has already begun again at the Fox. So far customers have been entertained by a brass band and Simon Snaith.
“We’re going to be doing live music throughout the summertime,” Giles said.
“I want to do a series of mini festivals as well. Beer festivals, cider festivals… but I want to see what the level of trade is so I have an idea what I’m budgeting for.”
Giles Seddon grew up in Scotland and opened a hotel on the Isle Of Skye. So what brought him here?
“I had a personal training company in Glasgow, and I moved down to York ten years ago on a whim to be the fitness instructor for the York University rugby team.”
He continued to work in the hospitality industry, at the Living Room on Bridge Street then, for more than five years, at the Evil Eye on Stonegate.
It was here that he would torment comedian Russell Howard, who always called in when he was gigging in York.
“He’s really nice. I used to get him Jägerbombs and he used to hate them,” Giles said.
“I would force him to do a Jägerbomb with the staff and he would pull a funny face.”
Richard Branson’s personal bartenders the Soul Shakers trained Giles in making cocktails – although he has no immediate plans to bring this skill to the Fox.
“I don’t know if it would really work. The bar’s quite small, you need a bigger bar to be able to do that sort of stuff.”
Two year plan
Giles is a big fan of real ale, a passion he was able to expand while working for the Ossett Brewery at the Hop on Fossgate.
He says: “I love the real ales, always have done.
“With the Hop, because they brew their own beer, I’ve learned a lot more about beer in the last six months than anyone in their sane minds might want to!”
Giles was planning to set up on his own and run a bar, then Ossett “gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse” – the Fox.
“It’s such a lovely place. I’m going to stick with them for a couple of years, find my feet a little bit and get some experience, and then set up on my own.”
In the meantime, he has a simple strategy to take the Fox back to its glory days.
“I’ve got a great little team,” says Giles.
“There’s a mix of people – I don’t want it to be too cliquey or trendy – and we’re just going to get some good beer and have a good time.”