It’s the pub which features in a thousand riverside photographs of York.

But the Kings Arms is not looking at its picturesque best – as it is currently closed.

The pub, owned by Sam Smith’s Brewery, shut on Saturday (8 April). The manager is understood to have moved on, and the brewery has not yet found a replacement.


With the doors shut and curtains drawn at all the ground floor windows, lunchtime customers were leaving disappointed today.

And the beer garden, on the cobbles next to the Ouse, had become a picnic area for people enjoying their pack ups rather than the usual drinkers.

Manager struggles

A window at the Kings Arms
The pub is nationally famous for continuing to serve customers even when the river bursts its banks and floods the ground floor bar.

But it has struggled to find a long-term manager. It has had at least two different publicans in the last year.

Sam Smith’s Brewery have been advertising for new licensees since 11 March. The advert asks for a

  • live-in joint management couple to run very busy small historic pub with open fires and trade kitchen on the riverside in York.

    £1,000 fidelity bond essential. Salaried position. Rent + Utilities bills will be paid for. No commute to work. Full training available.

No drinkers in the beer garden – just people eating their lunch

The ground floor curtains are drawn

Run in a secretive and eccentric way, the family-owned Samuel Smith’s Brewery is known for its unusual policies and management.

Last month YorkMix reported how the brewery was banning phones, laptops and tablets from its pubs.

Its treatment of its licensees – one in York was told to vacate the premises by the end of the weekend – might be causing recruitment problems.

Another Sam Smith’s pub, the Brigadier Gerard on Monkgate, is still advertising for new managers a year after it shut.

Historic pub

Card image cap

According to Hugh Murray’s Directory of York Pubs this 17th century building on Kings Staith had become the Kings Arms pub by 1783.

In 1867 licensee George Duckitt changed its name to The Ouse Bridge Tavern – a name it retained until 1974. In that year it reopened after a refurbishment under its original name.

The inn sign depicts King Richard III, who as a boy grew up at Middleham Castle, and as Duke of Gloucester visited York frequently from Sheriff Hutton.

You can see the level the floodwater reached over the years via the tidemarks on the interior walls

Photograph: Explore York Libraries and Archives