A couple who once ran rival pubs have joined forces to take on their very first pub together, Shepherd Neame’s Coach and Horses in Whitstable.
Sarah and Maddie behind the bar at the Coach and Horses
Maddie O’Shea and Sarah Jones-O’Shea, who moved to the pub earlier this year, after relocating to the seaside town from Dalston in East London just before the pandemic, say: “We feel right at home!”
Although the pair have re-energised the 17th century hostelry in their own way, they also want it to evolve ‘organically’. Polaroids of regulars on fun nights have started to fill up the walls, along with a colourful mural by a local artist in the refreshed suntrap beer garden. Bunting by the local Profanity Embroidery Group (PEG Whitstable) hangs from the ceilings.
“We were always competing with each other when we ran separate pubs — we were really competitive,” said Maddie. “It meant when we decided to do this together, we had to learn to work together.”
Sarah added: “We had a different approach to quite a few things, and we had to learn which ones worked best. It seems to work pretty well now.”
The pair, who have been married for six years, and now proudly fly the LGBTQ+ flag from the garden, chose the Coach and Horses as soon as they saw it for their first joint venture.
“We feel so at home here,” said Sarah. “I have always loved it — lots of my family live in this area and my Dad had his 50th birthday at the pub. We knew it was right for us — it’s always been a community pub, which is what we love.”
The couple’s cat, Rusky Elizabeth O’Shea, has settled in effortlessly after the move from London. She likes to say hello, but beware anyone trying to give her a stroke.