A POPULAR pub landlord has called time after 19 years in the trade.

Phil James, who runs the Hole in the Wall pub, in Horsemarket, Darlington, will pull his final pint on Sunday, January 6.

Mr James, who has looked after the pub with wife Mandy, is looking for a new challenge outside the industry, saying it has become an increasingly difficult environment to work in.

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However, the 54-year-old, who took over the venue when his brother Greg left to run a bar in Tenerife, will still be a familiar face to drinkers and will continue to play for the pub’s dominoes team.

He said: “It is getting harder, we’re putting more hours in and cutting costs to make a living, and are in the pub seven days a week.

“But it has been extremely enjoyable and you get to meet some nice people over the years.

“It’s a bit like Cheers, everyone know everyone else who comes in, and that’s what makes it successful.

“It is a local pub in a town centre, and that is what has kept us here for 19 years.”

He confirmed the pub would remain open with a new landlord.