Driffield NewsNEWS

Handing over the Keys to new owners

‘It feels like our time to go’ – Matt and Leigh Rogers, the landlords of the Original Keys, have told the Wolds Weekly it’s time to move on to new ventures, with their eight-year tenure at the Market Place pub set to end in March.

The couple announced their departure last week, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and its subsequent price rises, as well as recent violence in Driffield town centre cited as the major factors behind their decision.

It brings to a close Matt’s long-running association with the Original Keys, where he first started DJ-ing 16 years ago, before becoming landlord alongside Leigh in 2015.

But with other commitments, including Matt’s role on East Riding of Yorkshire and Driffield Town Councils and Leigh having recently completed a history degree, the pair will open the pub for the final time on Sunday 26th March.

However, it’s not the end for the pub, with new owners set to take over the following day, with plans for a six-figure investment in the building later in the year.

Following the announcement, he and Leigh were set to leave, Matt told the Wolds Weekly that a drop in takings, whilst having to put in the same number of, if not more, hours, made the decision a fairly straightforward one for them to make.

“There are two main reasons behind our decision to leave the pub,” he said. “It feels like it’s our time to go, we’ve got to the stage where we are tired of it all.

“Ultimately, we aren’t making any money, despite putting 80-90 hours into the pub, and that’s the main reason why we have decided to go.

“The cost of gas and electricity has gone through the roof. We were paying £21 for 20 litres of oil for our fryers and that has now increased to £41.

“With the agreement we have with the brewery, we are an expensive pub and to keep going we would have had to put another £2-£3 on the price of meals and another £1 on beer.

“We can’t put our prices up any more. Prices had already jumped after the pandemic. Steak pie went from £12.95 to around £15.95 and we’re feeling it now because people haven’t got any money to pay those prices.

“If they want to go out, they’re choosing to go to Wetherspoons, or similar, where they are paying for cheap pints and food.

“We’ve probably lost half of our trade. Weekends have always held us together, but we’ve gone from making around £3,000 on a Saturday night to making £1,700. Sunday dinners has been the same. Takings have dropped from £1,500 to less than half that figure and it’s just not viable and not worth doing.”

When they leave in March, Matt and Leigh will do so having achieved all their aims over nearly eight years, including a major refurbishment to the club’s interior, which included new toilets and kitchen.

Matt has been an almost permanent fixture behind the Keys decks as DJ Buck for more than a decade-and-a-half and for many, a night out in Driffield won’t be the same. But, he said, there’s still lots of time to bid he and Leigh a fond farewell before it’s time to move.

“We would have celebrated our eighth year at the pub in May and I’ve DJ-ed for another nine years on top of that,” said Matt.

“It’s sad it’s come to an end, but all good things have to. We have other interests, such as my role on the council and Leigh has just done a history degree and is hoping to become a teacher.

“I’m 41 this year and it’s hard work running a pub like the Original Keys, doing food and late nights.

“All the furniture needs to be moved around after food service is over, then I’m DJ-ing until three in the morning and finding staff hasn’t been easy recently.

“Trying to turn the place around from a Saturday night entertainment venue to somewhere that people can enjoy their Sunday dinner is very difficult.

“There have also been some really nasty incidents in recent months that have seen people get hurt.

“The police usually aren’t around and it tends to fall on our door and we could do without it.

“We have absolutely loved the last eight years but it has been very hard as the only venue in Driffield that offers both food and a late-night weekend opening.

“Nothing will change over the next few weeks; we’ll carry on running the pub until 26th March.

“Once the handover takes place, I believe the pub will run in the same way until planning permission for any changes is granted.

“People now know we are going and if they want to come and see us, they need to pop in over the next six to eight weeks and say their goodbyes.”

The Wolds Weekly has been told that the Original Keys has been leased to a company that runs a number of venues across the north of England.

It’s believed a manager will be put in place ahead of the brewery submitting planning permission which, if granted, would see a large sum of money spent on the pub, with a figure of over £200,000 touted.

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