Landlord 'sets record straight' on sale of country pub

The owner of an award-winning pub Devon country pub which is up for sale has 'put the record straight' to explain why he has put it on the market. The Hickory Inn in Halberton - the only pub in the village - is renowned for having been turned into a smokehouse by landlord Ed Sproat.

It was the only gastro pub in the South West to have received the 'gold seal' in the Good Food Awards 2023/24 in celebration of its authentic home-smoked meat dishes using local produce. It is the third year running it has won a Good Food Award.

The inn, previously known as The Barge Inn and The Welcome Inn and situated just minutes from the Great Western Canal, has been owned for the past 10 years by Ed in partnership with his father.

Last month, DevonLive reported the freehouse pub was being advertised for sale with property agents Bettesworth with the headline 'well-known pub in pretty Devon village on market for £385,000'. The story added the pub has been closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays since the start of April, with a notice on the pub's website saying the reduction was due to 'low trading and staff shortages'.

It said in the post, also shared on its Facebook page on March 26, that it would be 'for the foreseeable'. The story has prompted Ed to post a video on Facebook in which he stated in the description that he was 'putting the record straight' to explain the 'real reasons' and complaining he had seen a 'big drop in diners' and 'unrest with my staff'.

In the video shared on the pub's Facebook page, Ed told how he had a baby on the way, along with other family commitments, and has 'bigger ideas' to pursue. He added he believed the pub would be better run as a 'traditional' rather than niche pub.

The Hickory Inn Smokehouse in Halberton -Credit:Christie & Co
The Hickory Inn Smokehouse in Halberton -Credit:Christie & Co

In the video, he said: "I am for sale, but not for the reasons they have chosen. Big old headline, no staff, down in sales, that's going to sell. Disaster. It will sell them papers but it's not going to sell my business so I thought I would put it straight.

"Let them say what they want to say and now I'm coming out with the truth. My staff are amazing and if you follow us on Facebook you will see I have not put any jobs up to look for these supposed staff that there is none of.

"I have done in the last week because of their article because people are leaving. How surprising, I better panic. But my staff are local and wonderful and they keep me going.

"Turnover; who would know it? I don't know where they found this knowledge out, but I can tell you our turnover gets bigger and bigger every year. I may not make loads of profit but that's not why I'm in the game. I'm in it to make you guys happy.

The award-winning food at The Hickory Inn
The award-winning food at The Hickory Inn -Credit:The Hickory Inn

"So, I thought I would give you the reasons. Running this place by yourself seven days a week is a big old process. I've got some great news; I've got a baby on the way. I need some time for that.

"I've got some illness in the family and I need time to be there for my family and I need time to be there for my new family. So it has nothing to do with bad sales, bad staff and all this disaster.

"I have plenty of ideas. I'm 36 and most people are starting their businesses at this point. I will be pushing through and you will see me for many, many years to come.

"This place could take a year or it could take five years to sell. I have been for sale before, but I can tell you this article has done nothing but put people off coming here.

The Hickory Inn in Halberton
The outside huts at the Hickory Inn in Halberton -Credit:The Hickory Inn

"The last two weeks have not been great but before that it was wonderful. There is plenty of staff loyal straight to me.

"I have shut for two days but that's so I can work in the kitchen on my own and get ready all my homemade lovely stuff which I want you guys to come in and enjoy. I can do it on my own, relaxing. That is my days off. I'm in the kitchen making all these homemade goods."

Ed added how 'amazing' the location of The Hickory Inn is but despite the pub's award success as a niche smokehouse, there were some critics.

Inside The Hickory Inn in Halberton
Inside The Hickory Inn in Halberton -Credit:The Hickory Inn

He said: "Every week I hear, 'I don't like smoked meats', well, if you don't like smoked meats in my mind this place is a traditional pub and it's absolutely amazing.

"It's not all doom and gloom. I'm for sale because I have dreams and I have bigger ideas that I want to do. I have loved this place for 10 years and I won't stop. But now is the time that I need to move on and I believe this pub will be a much better pub as a traditional pub."

Toasting viewers with a sip from his pint, he concluded: "From me and The Hickory Inn, I would just like to say a big cheers and I hope everyone is all good and happy."