After three decades behind the bar at the Griffin’s Head in Chillenden, licensee Jerry Copestake and wife Karen retired this week.
More than 500 customers and former staff flocked to the historic Shepherd Neame pub for a surprise send-off party on Sunday, March 13.
As an extra special surprise, Jerry and Karen’s 28-year-old son Nick flew over from his home in Canada to celebrate with his parents and older brother Mark.
The pub was decorated with photos of Jerry and Karen during the past 30 years, and the couple were presented with a decanter and other gifts to mark the occasion.
Jerry, 70, said: “It was such a shock when I turned up at the pub and saw so many friends and family had gathered to celebrate with us. We had a brilliant time.”
Jerry first started his pub career in 1973, running the Fox and Hounds in Sevenoaks then the Plough in Hildenborough, before joining Shepherd Neame in the early 1980s, running the Woolpack in Chilham then taking over the Griffin’s Head with Karen in 1986.
Built during the time of Edward I, the pub was originally a farmhouse until 1405, until 1766 when it became the fully licensed Griffin’s Head, serving travellers on the main Canterbury to Deal road. It still boasts many original features, including oak beams, flagstones and an inglenook fireplace.
Jerry said: “We have stayed all this time at the Griffin’s Head because we just fell in love with it. It is such a super old building in a beautiful location, with a great ambience. The fun of being a licensee is meeting people, and we have made so many amazing friends here.”
The Griffin’s Head will remain open, and is being taken over this week by Helen Paraskevas, an experienced licensee who previously ran Shepherd Neame’s Bucks Head pub in Sevenoaks.
Jerry said: “Karen and I will continue to live in the village, just down the road from the pub, so I expect that we will be popping in from time to time! We have absolutely loved our time at the Griffin’s Head and would like to thank all our hard working staff and loyal customers for their support.”
Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame said: “Jerry and Karen are a Shepherd Neame institution and have done an amazing job at the Griffin’s Head during the past 30 years. They will be sadly missed. We will be hosting a special farewell dinner for them at the brewery at the end of the month, and wish them a very happy retirement.”
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