When Shaun Slater first started stocking shelves at the Black Rock pub when he was 14 it was a smokey den packed with journalists on one side and police officers on the other.
Queues would stretch outside the front door ahead of the 5.30pm evening opening session and if you weren’t a fan of Tetley’s then you might be left wanting.
And now Shaun is marking 20 years as licensee at the Cross Square pub – making him Wakefield city centre’s longest servicing publican – and nearly four decades working at the inn.
He said: “My mum was the pub’s cleaner and I began here as a way to earn a bit of pin money. I worked at over 50 pubs across Yorkshire, but the Black Rock was always my favourite.
“When it became available in 1998, I jumped at the chance to take it as my own.”
It’s name inspired by Yorkshire’s coal mining past, the Grade II-listed Black Rock dates back to 1842 and is one of the city centre’s last remaining traditional pubs. And despite the city’s renaissance of craft beer bars and trendy restaurants, there’s no denying that old fashioned inns have taken a hit in recent years.
Shaun said: “So many people come in and say what a breath of fresh air it is to see something like this as it used to be.
“Back when I started it was non-stop – you’d have five people serving and another two glass washing.
“When we got new staff in a lot of the older customers wouldn’t be served by them until they knew they could pull a pint without bubbles.
“Back then all you could have was Tetley’s or Tetley’s’ mild. We got a lager on at some point, maybe Skol. And there were no fridges just a cold shelf, but the atmosphere was fantastic.
“To me, the Rock is a landmark. You say ‘Wakefield’ to someone in another city and so many people know it.”
Shaun has been given an award from landlord Star Pubs & Bars for his 20 years’ service.
Area manager Adele Mason said: “Thanks to his stewardship, the Black Rock has retained its place as a Wakefield institution and a fantastic pub, which attracts visitors from across the UK.
“It’s a tremendous achievement to keep a pub at the top of its game for over 20 years and all down to Shaun, his high standards and great customer care.”
The pub is also CAMRA’s pub of the season for autumn.