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The Shakespeare: Pulling More Than Pints, Creating Community.

29.09.2023 4 min read

The Shakespeare: Pulling More Than Pints, Creating Community.

In the heart of Redland, Bristol, a pub unlike any other quietly thrives, telling a tale of resilience, reinvention, and a commitment to community. Meet Neil and Olivia, the passionate owners of The Shakespeare, an independent pub that transcends the ordinary. In an exclusive interview, they shared their journey, the challenges they've overcome, and the secret ingredients that make The Shakespeare a local legend.


A Journey Beyond Cocktails

Neil, armed with a design degree, unexpectedly found his passion for running bars during his tenure as vice president of the student union in Exeter. This journey eventually led to the opening of 20 Moroccan-themed nightclubs. The shift to the pub scene happened when the couple acquired The Royal Oak, a rough-around-the-edges establishment which they then transformed into a family-friendly haven, winning Pub of the Year shortly after. 

Two years ago, they found themselves at a crossroads, not renewing the lease for The Royal Oak. The decision to leave Gloucester Road and move to Clifton was fueled by the need for a fresh start. They discovered that being slightly tucked away, just off Redland Road, allowed The Shakespeare to build its reputation organically, and enabled the establishment to build a community of loyal and devoted customers. 

A Hub of Community and Culinary Excellence

The Shakespeare boasts a tight-knit team of around 20 individuals, including 7 full-timers, all working tirelessly to create an atmosphere that feels like home. Neil and Olivia actively engage with their community, hosting events, and supporting local causes. A recent success story revolves around influencers dubbing their roast as the "best in Bristol," leading to fully booked Sundays until December. 

In the ever-evolving world of social media, they've navigated the challenges gracefully, focusing on the positive feedback and using the negatives as learning opportunities. Neil and Olivia understand the power of online presence, with influencers creating demand and even traveling from Plymouth for a coveted Sunday roast.

Navigating Challenges: From Covid to Community

The challenges posed by Covid and Brexit had a profound impact, testing the resilience of both Neil and Olivia and their team. Furloughs and a changed work environment revealed the harsh reality of post-lockdown life. Yet, despite industry-wide struggles to find skilled kitchen staff, The Shakespeare remains a beacon, offering a haven for both customers and employees.

From Student Nightclubs to Community Hub

The journey from student nightclubs to a community hub has been marked by challenges and triumphs. The pub, with roots dating back before it's 1993 renovation, has retained its historical charm. The close-knit staff, now treating each other as family, enjoys a unique camaraderie fostered during their Sunday outings.


The Shakespeare Experience: More Than Just a Drink

The Shakespeare isn't just a place to grab a pint; it's a community, a family, and a culinary haven. Monday nights bring quiz enthusiasts, Wednesdays offer a new wine night, and throughout the week, the pub is abuzz with a diverse crowd of regulars and newcomers alike. 

As Christmas approaches, The Shakespeare transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a cosy retreat for locals. Their commitment to quality shines through in every dish, with the tiny kitchen producing culinary delights that keep patrons coming back for more.


A Balancing Act and Future Aspirations

Neil and Olivia have found a balance between work and life, supported by their exceptional team. The pub, always on their minds, has become a place where ideas are nurtured, and improvements are constantly sought. Their journey is a testament to the belief that a community-driven approach can withstand challenges and thrive.

In the end, Neil and Olivia's recommendation to those considering such a venture is both a jest and a nod to the reality of the hospitality industry. It's hard work, but the love for what they do, the joy of creating a welcoming space, and the support of an exceptional team make it all worthwhile.

The Shakespeare isn't just a pub; it's a story of passion, community, and the relentless pursuit of creating something truly extraordinary. Visit for the drinks, stay for the experience, and become part of the Shakespeare story. Cheers to Neil, Olivia, and the entire Shakespeare family!

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