Monday 14th September 2020 saw the long-awaited re-opening of my former local, The Seven Stars in Penryn. Officially opening the pub, the Mayor of Penryn and former regular, Chaz Wenmoth said “as usual Penryn are bucking the trend, we’re opening pubs, while everyone else are closing them!”
In his speech he described the Seven Stars as a “community centre” and “one of the roots of Penryn”. Indeed the pubs role in the town as a place of connection and community for many, many people, earned it a listing as an Asset of Community Value when it closed its doors on New Years Eve 2017 after 21 years under landlord Rob Brinkhof.
A steady flow of locals drop in throughout the day to check out the new “Stars”. The atmosphere is happy, excited but also reflective, as we all take in the new surroundings.
It’s the same, but not the same. The basic layout of the main bar has been preserved, albeit with a painted MDF bar replacing the old solid wood one. Real Ale fans are pleased to see three hand pulls on the bar, although St Austell’s Proper Job has taken the place of the Blue Anchor’s cultishly popular Spingo. The pool table has given way to dining tables. The soundtrack of Rush and Floyd has faded into ambient background muzak. The “stage” is a little smaller, but it’s still in the same place. If live music is ever re-instated in this pub (sadly I’m not sure they will be booking Seven Stars favourites such as Sinpusher) you would still have to walk right through the band to get to the toilets – a source of much banter and awkward dance moves over the years.
Whether the tasteful decor is to your taste or not, there is no denying that the historic building has been painstakingly renovated. Outside, the changes are more noticeable. Everyone loves the new look beer garden and agrees it feels 5 times the size. It’s nice to see the old Seven Stars pub sign mounted on the wall. Even more exciting, a former stone shed is being converted into a new microbrewery, the fermenting vessels already tantalisingly in place.
Awkward corners are navigated in the beer garden as some punters are perhaps too enthusiastic about the changes, to the detriment of the home from home that former regulars knew and loved. One describes the pub as having been a bit “spit and sawdust”. I disagree and say that it was “homely” – she rolls her eyes.
In fact the pub was such a second home for me that I even kept my spare keys there. It was the kind of pub you could pop into for a quiet pint and a chat, and a very loud band all in the same week (sometimes on the same night). Christmas parties, weddings, birthdays, sports days, silly games, and bake offs kept us entertained, with the annual highlight being the infamous Seven Stars Panto in the Pub produced by Penryn Community Theatre.
Members of the former landlord’s family pop in, curious to see what’s been done to the pub. “They’ve done an Alice in Wonderland version of the The Seven Stars!”, says one after a tour of the upstairs accommodation he once lived in. Showing me photos, he tries to explain the new layout – some rooms are bigger, some are smaller, a window that was in one room now appears in another.
The Memory of a Pub
Andrew, the new manager tells me that during the extensive renovation they salvaged some “bits and pieces” from the interior which they will be finding homes for in the pub. Although he says the old bar “disintegrated”, he tells me they did save a brass plaque that had been screwed onto the middle of the bar. The plaque commemorates former Seven Stars regular and musician, Keith Richards. Chaz shows me a photo of Keith that his daughter has brought in. This leads to a conversation about pubs being places of memory, and we speculate what our friend Bill, who sadly passed away during lockdown, would have made of the changes. Returning that evening with a photo of Bill, I notice that Keith’s little brass plaque has already been remounted behind the bar.
The decor may have changed, but it’s the people who use the pub that will make it feel like The Seven Stars, or not. A done-up pub can still feel homely if it’s populated by friendly familiar faces. Assistant manager, Bonnie smoothes the way by welcoming everyone by name, simultaneously helping us to navigate the new pub and the new Covid 19 controls.
The business has diversified to include seven new letting rooms (in the former landlords upstairs accommodation), a restaurant and a microbrewery. Now marketed as “a Brew Pub with Rooms” you could simply say that the Seven Stars has gone back to its ancient roots as an Inn. Whilst this is unarguably a difficult time to open a pub (!!!), the new income streams will hopefully help to sustain the pub into the future.
I won’t be leaving my spare set of house keys in the till (I’m not sure there even is a till now – it’s card only), or bringing in chips to eat from Mariners over the road, or dancing with a pint in hand to Carly and the Alternative, but I truly truly CELEBRATE that after nearly 3 years of darkness, this centuries old pub is open again. It’s alive! It’s a pub! With people and beer inside!
I wonder if the pub cats have popped in for a look yet?