THE Crooked Billet pub, a cornerstone of the Hook community for nearly four decades, has closed after its owners decided to retire. 

Richard and Sally Sanders, who have run the free house since 1986, made the difficult decision to close the pub after years of trying to sell.

They are now hoping that another enthusiastic person, just like them, will take over the pub so that patrons can continue to enjoy the tavern. 

Basingstoke Gazette: The Crooked Billet pub in HookThe Crooked Billet pub in Hook (Image: Contributed)

"It's been a very emotional time," said Sally. "We've poured our hearts and souls into this pub for 37 years. It's not just a business, it's our home."

Reflecting on their tenure, Sally reminisced about their humble beginnings in 1986 when they took over the pub as tenants while already expecting their first child.

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“We're both from the north of England and we moved here because of a company that we worked for at the time,” said Sally, who is 68 now.

“We bought one of the new houses in Hook in 1983. And then we decided that we were working very hard for a very large company and it might be a good idea to work very hard for ourselves.

Basingstoke Gazette: An old photo of Richard and Sally at The Crooked Billet An old photo of Richard and Sally at The Crooked Billet (Image: Contributed)

“We didn't buy the Crooked Billet first. We were tenants. We were married for three or four years, and I was pregnant when we went into the pub in 1986.

“My daughter was born here in December '86 and then I had a son, who was born in October '89.”

Richard, now 69, said they were lucky to buy the Crooked Billet as it was only half a mile from where they lived then. 

Basingstoke Gazette: An old photo of Richard and Sally at The Crooked Billet An old photo of Richard and Sally at The Crooked Billet (Image: Contributed)

“We had a lot of friends. Some family came and saw us on the very first day, and we built it up from there. 

“We redecorated it because it was painted bright pink, inside and out. It was a horrible place. We fired money into it and had a very, very good living for many years.”

They eventually bought the freehold in 2000 and spent more money and years renovating and building it into a thriving pub.

Basingstoke Gazette: The Crooked Billet in 2009The Crooked Billet in 2009 (Image: Contributed)

"It was booming," Richard said. "We invested time, effort, and savings into making the Crooked Billet a success. We were considered the best pub in the area.”

The pub hosted countless evenings of Morris dancing, Days of Dance, and festive celebrations, leaving remarkable memories in the hearts of Hook residents.

However, the pub industry has faced significant challenges in recent years, and the Covid pandemic only exacerbated the situation. Despite their best efforts, the couple was unable to find a buyer for the Crooked Billet.Basingstoke Gazette: Sally and Richard with their children at The Crooked BilletSally and Richard with their children at The Crooked Billet (Image: Contributed) Richard said the pub was worth probably a million five years ago, but then came the pandemic. 

“A lot of pubs didn’t survive Covid,” said Sally. “We never thought we'd be one of them, but now we've got the same problem.”

As they bid farewell to their beloved pub, Richard and Sally find themselves at a crossroads, facing an uncertain future.

"We're spending our savings as we navigate this new chapter," said Richard.

The couple hopes that an interested party will contact them soon so that they can give the pub back to the community.