A landlord who ran a pub with his wife and their friends has explained their decision to call time at the bar.

Steve and Sharron Marley have owned The Stapylton Arms in Hawthorn Village, near Seaham, along with Dave and Joanne Irwing since taking over in 2017.

The pub, once known as The Plough Inn, dates back almost 200 years and over the centuries has been a popular watering hole for the surrounding farming community.

They decided to buy the pub to save it from permanent closure as they wanted to have somewhere to enjoy a drink with friends in the village.

It reopened in March 2018 following a complete refurbishment, offering real ale and homecooked food and created more than 14 new jobs in the village.

The pub became a popular destination with locals and walking groups and was named regional winners of the inaugural Parliamentary Pub of the Year competition in January 2019.

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Steve, who worked off-shore in the oil and gas industry, explained the reasons why the owners had decided to call time at the bar.

He said: “It is a combination of things.

“We wanted to keep the pub open but we did not want to do it long term.

“We do not have a background as publicans.

“There have been a lot of rising costs and after Covid a lot of people are not going out as much.

"There has been a change in people’s drinking habits.

“Everyone is facing higher costs so people have not got as much spare change as they used to have.”

The plan is now to sell the pub but they hope it will continue as a going concern so they can continue to support it as customers again.

Around 60 regulars spent the last night with the couples on Sunday as they said ‘farewell’ and ‘thank you’ for the support over the last six years.

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Steve added: “It rammed at the bar. It was standing room only.

“It was really good night. We got some gifts from our customers and a lot of old staff came back.

"A lot of them were just kids when they started here and they have been away to college and university.

“Over the years we have enjoyed seeing our locals coming in, having a chat and having a drink.

“I think that is what we will miss the most.”