A pub that kept going through through the coronavirus crisis by offering takeaways has welcomed regulars back through its doors.

The Royal Oak at Milborne St Andrew on the A354 near Dorchester is offering customers a socially distanced but a warm welcome.

Hand sanitisers have been installed throughout the pub and some tables have been removed to aid social distancing. Table service is being offered at all times.

Dorset Echo:

Landlady Sarah Fox said the last few months have been like ‘an emotional rollercoaster’ and she has worked hard to make sure it still ‘feels like a visit to a pub not a clinical experience’.

After the first weekend of reopening following the virus pandemic, she said: “It feels good to be back. It is lovely to hear chatter and smell food again! People are being sensible and respectful and are so happy to be back.”

Dating from around 1707, the pub is a former coaching inn on the route from the west of England to London.

Dorset Echo:

Being a publican runs in the family for landlady Sarah Fox. She and her husband Andy have overseen the Royal Oak for 10 and a half years. Prior to their arrival the pub had been shut for about 10 months.

Sarah said: “We’ve been in the pub trade for 20 years. We actually ended up in the trade because we wanted to save money to move to Australia! In 2000 pub companies were paying big bonuses and with live in on the cards expenses were low! My dad and grandad had been publicans so I had an idea what it entailed.”

Sarah says the most popular drinks served are anything on draft and the premium gins. On the menu is ‘good quality, home cooked, good value pub grub’.

Dorset Echo:

Sarah describes the Royal Oak as the site of many local group meetings ‘and very much the centre of the community.’ A memorable moment for she and Andy at the pub was a 10th anniversary party celebrating a decade at the helm.

Sarah says there is no real bad side to running a pub and that she is grateful to the crew of bar and kitchen staff, some of whom have been with them for years - Jo, Stewart, Antonio, Victoria, Sara, Lauren, Jacob, Charlie, Sam, Fin, Tia, Morgan & Summer. And we are grateful to many staff from the past!”

Dorset Echo:

From Monday, July 13 the Royal Oak will be open seven days a week from midday. People are asked to book where possible.

See theroyaloakmilborne.co.uk

The Dorset Echo is backing pubs in the area as they get back on their feet after lockdown. Contact joanna.davis@dorsetecho.co.uk to nominate your pub for Pub of the Week or fill out the form here.