Fringe Box



Only A Slim Chance That The Row Barge Pub Will Re-Open

Published on: 2 Feb, 2013
Updated on: 5 Feb, 2013
Mark East at the Row Barge

Mark East at the Row Barge

Another Guildford pub, the Row Barge in Bellfields, seems destined to close this weekend. Cash-flow problems have forced Mark and Chrissie East to say that they will be calling time for good.

Mark East who, with his wife Chrissie, has run the pub since 2008 said: “We spent three hours with our accountant. There is a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel: a small hope that we might be able to keep going eventually. But it is a very slim chance and we did not want to put off our decision and struggle on as that chance might not materialise.

The Row Barge, Riverside, Stoke

The Row Barge, Riverside, Stoke

“We feel sorry for our staff and our customers but we thought hard about this all last weekend and I would like to add that we have no complaints about our landlords, Enterprise Inns [that owns 6,000 pubs in the UK]. They have been brilliant and really tried to help us as much as possible.”

The pub with its riverside location has a trade that is unusually seasonal. Mark and Chrissie East have worked hard to attract more trade by specialising in providing a large range of real ales and providing a regular programme of live music.

Mr East continued: “Some people, if they see us on a busy night when we are full, might wonder why we have a problem but we have quiet nights too.”

Cllr Zoe Franklin (Lib Dem) who represents Stoke Ward commented: “I can honestly say I’m devastated personally and for the community as well. Mark and Chrissie have done an amazing job over the past four years turning the pub into a great place to socialise, eat and drink, as proved by their CAMRA award last year.

“The pub is so much more than just a pub, it’s a community hub and regularly hosts residents meetings and other community events. Mark and Chrissie have also given time to help organise the fantastic ‘Games on the Green’ in July 2012.

“My heartfelt thanks goes out to them on behalf of the whole community. Speaking to Mark there are glimmers of hope and I really hope they come through and closure on Sunday night won’t be permanent.”

Cllr Angela Gunning (Lab) added: “I was really shocked to read this sudden and awful news about the imminent closure of the Row Barge. However after speaking to Mark, I understand that there could be light at the end of tunnel, pending further negotiations.

The Row Barge is such an asset to Stoke, and Mark and Chrissie have worked so hard to make it a really delightful pub by the river. I sincerely hope that the financial matters can be sorted out, and we see the doors open again very very soon.”

History note: The origins of the pub seem a little uncertain. A malthouse once occupied the site, but there has probably been a pub here since the late 19th century. The name reflects the barge traffic that used to ply the route between Guildford and London.

What are you views? Are you a customer of the pub or a nearby resident. Is it just an inevitable sign of the times or should something be done to protect our pubs? Please have your say by using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below. Your email address will not be divulged.


Even being Surrey’s CAMRA pub of the year has not prevented this week’s closure announcement

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Responses to Only A Slim Chance That The Row Barge Pub Will Re-Open

  1. Fiona White Reply

    February 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Although I don’t live in the area, I have been to the Row Barge quite a few times. The atmosphere Mark & Chrissie have created is really good and they certainly know their trade. They have also provided a good place for the community to meet together. It is one of the best places to sit in the summer, watching the boats and wildlife on the river.

    I hope that they will be able to find a way to keep running the pub. It really wouldn’t be the same without them.

    On a more general note, I hope that we won’t lose too many community pubs like The Row Barge. Places where people can get together for a drink and a chat are very important.

  2. Susie Campbell Reply

    February 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    I live in the neighbourhood and can honestly say that Mark and Chrissie have done a fantastic job. They have transformed the Row Barge into a warm, inviting and community-centred pub. It will be a real loss if they are not able to continue. The pub has also become, under their management, a real hub of the local area and will be greatly missed if they cannot carry on.

  3. Bronwen Salter-Murison Reply

    February 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    The Row Barge is a great pub, with good food and lots of live music. Really good jam sessions, and some amazingly good musicians. I’ve been there quite a few times. In the summer it’s a total joy, with a lovely garden on the river.

    If Mark & Chrissie can’t make a living out of it, no one can. It’s a good pub, and it’s a sad sign of the times if it has to close. Sigh…

  4. Brian Walter Reply

    February 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    As a regular user of the Row Barge I find this really sad news, for a variety of reasons but especially as Mark and Chrissie have always made their ‘back room’ available for community meetings at no charge. They deserve better than this.

  5. Colin Stacey Reply

    May 15, 2013 at 10:33 am

    I was deeply shocked and saddend when I called in last Sunday to see the Row Barge looking resplendant with all the flowers but closed. I stood in the car park feeling so confused like sombody late for a funeral and not knowing where to go or what to do.

    It was tragic for me when the Dolphin was taken after Mark and Crissie had got it running so aell but at least there was a month’s notice to prepare. Then to see that derelect eye sore on the riverside transformed into the best venue for 50 miles around I felt the Dolphin sacrifice was probably worth it.

    I cannot see this closure as permanant. Too many people must feel the same. I dont know what to say to Mark and Crissie as to me they are not landlords but friends. As landlords or whatever route they take from here I know they will overwork to be successful the wind may have ripped the sails but if anyone can re-rig and build from a storm it is Mark and Crissie.

    I together with Colin, Ted and all the ex Dolphinites would like to send our love and best wishes to them.

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