Jerry and Rohina Caterina are saying an emotional goodbye to their home and business after more than a decade behind the bar.
They will be calling time for the last time at The Stonewell Tavern on Saturday November 25, after agreeing the pub’s sale to another Lancaster landlord.
The couple, who have two children, said the time was now right to move on.
Best known for jumping up on stage for an impromptu song or two with the band, or delighting customers with his Italian charm, Jerry, 57, said the couple had “put their soul” into running the pub, but he was now looking forward to spending some time with his parents in Italy.
Rohi, 42, who grew up in Lancaster, is currently retraining as a social worker at the University of Cumbria, and the couple, who have two sons – Enrico, 15, and Alberto, 13 – have bought a new house in Halton Road.
They took on the pub in January 2007 after returning from working in Spain.
Rohi said: “I wanted to come home, and returned to Lancaster and walked past this place. I sent Jerry a picture and he agreed it was what we were after.
“It had previously been called Paddy Mulligan’s, and then turned back into the Stonewell, and it had a big sign outside saying ‘landlords wanted’. We got it on a lease basis for the first three years, and then we bought the Freehold. Since then it has become our home.”
The couple first met while working at Marco’s Italian Restaurant in North Road in 1997, and remember going to the Stonewell for drinks after work. Jerry is originally from Alassio in north west Italy, and first came to Lancaster in 1980, working in restaurants in the city during the winter months, and returning to his home town in the summer to work as a lifeguard.
He said: “When we first moved in I bought a piano, and we decided to go full on live music, because apart from the John O’Gaunt there was nothing going on live music wise in Lancaster.
“Ronnie French came in and asked if he could play the piano, and he sat down and had a tinkle, and he said ‘it’s in tune, could we come and do a session?’
“That turned into the Thursday night sessions and it just exploded, even the Mayor came down to see what was happening.
“We’ve had many bands borne out of here since then – Idol Minds, Sold to the Sky, Divide and Conker. Pub life is quite hard, it’s expensive, I can’t believe how pubs survive under breweries.”
Jerry suffered a stroke in May, and Rohi said this had made them re-evaluate their lives, and all the things that go with running a pub.
In December 2015, the Stonewell was submerged under a metre of water following Storm Desmond, but Jerry and Rohi, with the help of staff and the city community, rolled up their sleeves and got to work cleaning up, re-opening just four days later.
Rohi, who said hosting the Piccadilly Support Service events at the pub had been one of highlights for her, said: “I’m re-training, but I’ve always worked alongside running the pub at Dallas Road Primary School, but to be a social worker, I can’t do both.
“It’s an emotional time, I’ve loved every second of it, but the time is right. I just want to thank all our staff, especially my right hand woman Esther Griffiths, and all our musicians, and customers for being a part of the Stonewell over the years.”
Tim Tomlinson, landlord of The White Cross and The Merchants 1688 pubs, has bought The Stonewell Tavern, and said he hopes to keep the spirit of the pub that Rohi and Jerry have grown over the years, and build on that.
A farewell party will be held at the pub on Saturday November 25 in aid of CancerCare. Tickets are now available at the bar.