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Relatively speaking: Jim Cook


Jim and Dawn Cooke pictured at their pub The Parlour Bar and Restaurant in Newtownards

Jim and Dawn Cooke pictured at their pub The Parlour Bar and Restaurant in Newtownards

Jim and Dawn Cooke pictured at their pub The Parlour Bar and Restaurant in Newtownards

Name: Jim Cook

Age: 54

Occupation: Pub and restaurant owner

Relationship to Dawn: Husband

The Old Cross Inn, as The Parlour was previously known, had always been one of the best pubs in Newtownards, but it had declined over the years and had changed landlords many times.

When Dawn and I bought it in January 2012, it was pretty much a derelict shell. There was even a tree growing out of the gable wall.

I was born and bred in the town and have been in the licensing trade for many years.

I met Dawn when she was a customer in a bar where I was working and we've been married 22 years. We bought The Tudor Tavern on Georges Street in 1993.

I always had the thought that if I was to take on another bar it would be The Old Cross Inn, so when the building came up for sale, we went to have a look. It was obvious that it would take a lot of work to get it back on track, but as soon as I saw it, I wanted it.

One of the best things about Dawn is that she is supportive of everything I want to do. It was really my own dream to buy The Parlour and despite it being such a massive undertaking, she backed me all the way.

The renovation was huge and costly as it was important to us to honour the history and maintain the cosy, olde-worlde feeling. It is a tiny pub and because of this we renamed it The Parlour. We've added a restaurant too.

Running a bar is a seven-day operation and it can be hard balancing work with raising a family, but we always made time for nice holidays.

Dawn and I have a son together, Jamie (22), and I have two older sons, Jonathan (30) and Christopher (26). Christopher works in The Tudor and Jamie works in The Parlour, while Jonathan runs his own business, Peninsula Care Services.

All three were grown up when we took on the second pub, so really The Parlour is like our new baby.

Name: Dawn Cook

Age: 46

Occupation: Pub and restaurant owner

Relationship to Jim: Wife

When I met Jim, I was working in the Berkshire Hosiery Factory in Newtownards. I was attracted to him because of his shoes -- I like a man with good shoes and his were always lovely.

When he bought The Tudor, I had just had our son, Jamie, and when it was time to go back to work I joined Jim in the pub.

It's a hard business and looking back I wonder how we did it. I think it helped that we didn't live on the premises.

When it came to renovating The Parlour, I took charge. I had a vision of how I wanted it to look and Jim trusted me all the way. I could see how it would look when it was finished and it was a really enjoyable project and very satisfying to bring a bit of the town centre back to life.

Everything had to be in keeping with the age of the building, except for the toilets and kitchen facilities, of course.

We've kept a lot of the original brickwork and fireplaces downstairs, while we were able to go with a more modern feel upstairs in the restaurant.

The pub is a stopping-off point on many of the walking history tours of the town and the exterior of the building is exactly the same as it was almost 300 years ago.

As a child, I was always told that the pub was haunted and it's a very popular destination for ghost tours at Halloween. That doesn't bother me, though, and I've no idea who or what it is haunted by, but I have felt a bit chilly at times and the staff are always playing practical jokes on new workers. Jim and I both work between The Parlour and The Tudor Tavern. I take care of the staff and wages and Jim looks after ordering and book-keeping.

But we are also both very hands-on and spend a lot of time behind the counter serving customers. We don't always agree and tend to fall out every week, but we just get on with it. He is actually very supportive of anything I want to do and I of him.

Jim and I try to take off a few nights each week to spend together at home, but the bars are never far from our thoughts -- the licensing trade is more than a job, it's a way of life!


* Built in 1735, The Parlour Bar & Restaurant was previously known as The Old Cross Inn, and was originally used as a coach house and stables for market traders and customers

* It became a pub in the late 1700s, when the commercial centre of the town shifted from the area surrounding the Market Cross to Conway Square after the construction of the Market House (now home to Ards Arts Centre) in 1771

* The bar is located at 4 Castle Place, Newtownards, visit www.theparlourbar newtownards.co.uk

* Other well-known historic pubs in Northern Ireland include the 17th-century White's Tavern, in Belfast; McHugh's Bar & Restaurant, Belfast, which was built between 1710 and 1720; and the House of McDonnell, in Ballycastle, which was established in 1766