Sam and Gary’s journey in the pub industry began when they both worked at the Wickstead Arms in Nantwich, owned by Gary’s father. After years of balancing work and university, they committed full-time in 2008. Friends long before their professional venture, their partnership flourished in 2011 when they took over the Lamb in Willaston, a small village pub. It was there that Gary’s culinary talents began to shine, and their food offerings became a local sensation.

In 2013, seeking a larger challenge, Sam and Gary joined Joule’s Brewery and took over The Leopard. Reflecting on their early days, Sam recalls:

“When we first started at the Leopard, there were a handful of team members alongside Gary and I, the pub was steady in terms of trade and was based more around pub teams such as darts and dominoes, football teams etc. and then gradually the food offer started to take off, alongside our Joule’s beer offer. The allowed the pub to become more inclusive. We then re-signed our contract in 2017, we really enjoyed the partnership with Joule’s and were keen to sign on again. The business was growing, and we wanted to see where we could take it, see what it’s potential could be.”

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges, but Sam and Gary remained committed to their customers.

‘Covid was a horrendous time for the hospitality industry, it was challenging to have to close the doors but the support from Joule’s Brewery was incredibly generous, they were fantastic. We were determined to keep providing our loyal customers with beer and food during the difficult time. We ran a delivery service, dropping off food and beer to our customers so that they could enjoy the Leopard experience from the comfort of their own home until it was safe to open the pub once more.’

The taphouse, originally built in 1880 in the style of an Edwardian hunting lodge, underwent a significant development project in 2021. The development included a rear extension with a retractable roof, enhanced outdoor drinking, a revamped meeting room, and updates to the main bar and dining areas. The changes have doubled the pub’s capacity and have been well received by the community.

“The development is more than we ever could have imagined, we didn’t anticipate how much Joule’s would invest in the site, the pub has completely transformed. It’s truly a pub for everyone now and we can’t thank Joule’s enough for their belief in us as Landlords to invest in the site so heavily. It’s opened up so many doors for us and allowed us to continue growing.”

Their hard work and dedication were recognised when The Leopard won the Taphouse of the Year Award at the Joule’s Annual Awards Evening, along with the Green Monkey Flagship Award.

‘We’ve been blown away by the last 12 months, and to be awarded the Taphouse of the Year Award at the Joule’s Annual Awards Evening is incredible. After 11 years, we feel privileged to receive this recognition, along with the Green Monkey Flagship Award, we didn’t think it was possible to sell some much Green Monkey! ‘

‘We still remember the launch of Green Monkey in 2014, to be able to confidently say it’s our leading halo brand, feels completely surreal. We’ve had the joys of watching the growth in the cold beer market and we’ve really enjoyed watching Joule’s develop new products for us to sell across the bar, Eden Haze, a New England IPA from Joule’s, which we have on currently, is an absolute show stopper, the brewery have worked their magic on that one.’

“We’re incredible grateful and thankful to Joule’s for their unwavering commitment and support to us, not only in the development investment but the continued support since then, they even drove out and delivered more beer to us on Easter Sunday because we were running low due to how busy we were!’

Gary adds, “The Leopard is the only place in Nantwich where you can enjoy a pint of Joule’s, paired with our award-winning food. We are proud to be a Joule’s pub, and our customers love the immersive Joule’s experience.”

Looking ahead, Sam and Gary are excited about the future.

“We’re incredibly grateful to Joule’s for their unwavering commitment and support,” “We can’t see ourselves anywhere else. The Leopard is our home, and we consider ourselves part of the furniture now!”