In the News: Community helps fire-hit Cumbrian pub open on time

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The Robin Hood Inn was able to reopen to the public thanks to the support of local businesses and the community.

The new tenants of The Robin Hood Inn, at Smithfield near Longtown, have spoken of their gratitude for those who stepped up when everything started to go wrong - four days ahead of opening.

Over the bank holiday weekend, the pub welcomed punters back for the first time since it was damaged by fire in May. But, with less than a week to go, chef Craig Hennessey and his partner Titanilla Kiss feared they would have to postpone the opening as it looked like they would be unable to serve food or drink. They received the devastating news that the kitchen was not up to safety standards following the fire in May - and then learned that the cellar's cooling system had failed. Not wanting to let down the village, which has been without its pub for more than three months, Craig and Titanilla worked around the clock - sometimes with as little as three hours sleep - to ensure the grand opening went ahead. Without the help of a string of small businesses from Longtown and the Carlisle area they say they wouldn't have managed to open in time.

Craig said: "Just before opening we found out that the kitchen would not pass its safety certificate due to the fire that happened.

"We found out the extraction system doesn't meet standards and therefore we were unable to cook in the kitchen. "We were facing having no drink as well."

Their calls for help were answered by Kirkup Family Butchers at Longtown and Alan Simpson, of Carlisle-based catering company Com-For-T, who ensured food could be prepared off site and brought in to be cooked in a temporary outdoor kitchen they created. It meant a reduced grill menu could be offered for the weekend.

Carlisle-based Chunky Wombats Media sent out launch night invitations, which also informed locals of the situation and changes put in place and Martyn Vevers, the local Heineken rep, made sure they could serve alcohol. Chris Johnson from Creative Joinery + Design also pulled out all the stops to help them complete the refurbishment in time.

Craig and Titanilla also wanted to thank Bruce and Luke's Coffee, David Whipp of StarFruits at Penrith and their former Hidden River Cafe team.

"The bank holiday weekend is a key time in any pub calendar and to coincide with an opening it meant we could reach out to as many local people as possible who have been turned away by the pub in recent years," said Craig, who has lived in Cumbria for 11 years.

"It has been eye-opening to see that kindness of local people. To have that level of friendliness and willingness from everybody took us by surprise and we wouldn't have been open without it."

Taking on the Robin Hood is the couple's first solo venture and something they had been looking forward to. Craig previously ran the Hidden River Cafe, at Brackenhill, near Longtown The couple had ploughed themselves into the pub, starting a six week renovation in July and in the build up to the opening they were surviving on as little as three hours sleep.

Craig added: "We have received good feedback from locals. There is lots of stuff they really like." He also thanked Titanilla for keeping him straight and being a great partner throughout. The pub, which is situated at a busy crossroads, will continue to serve a reduced menu from the temporary kitchen at weekends until a new extraction system which meets health and safety standards can be installed

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