AN ANDOVER watering hole has been crowned ‘pub of the year’ by readers of the Advertiser.

Anton Arms on Salisbury Road has been named the winner of the annual contest, run jointly by the Andover Advertiser and Basingstoke Gazette and voted for by residents of both towns.

Manager Clare Meadowcroft, who has been at the venue’s helm for the past 20 years, said: “A big thank you to everybody for supporting us.

“When I first started with Greene King, I was at the bottom of all the lists, so it’s really good to see us working our way up over the years. I love reading good things about the pub.”

Clare moved to Andover from Manchester for the job running Anton Arms, having previously been in an office job for an engineering firm.

“I always wanted to run a pub,” she said.

“I took it on on my own and I remember someone bet me that I wouldn’t last six months - and that made me more determined!

“I just love working with people, I’m a real people person. I love all the age ranges we work with - we have older people during the day and the young people at the weekends. I couldn’t ever go back to just sitting in an office.”

Andover Advertiser: Clare Meadowcroft, manager at Anton ArmsClare Meadowcroft, manager at Anton Arms

She now leads a team of approximately 22 staff members, some of whom have themselves been working there for more than a decade, and says there’s a real family closeness to the team.

The pub is not only celebrating its pub of the year win, but also being shortlisted for best pub in the upcoming Andover Inspiration Awards.

“When I came here 20 years ago, it was a real blokes pub,” said Clare. “Women didn’t come in on their own and families didn't come. It makes me proud that it’s more welcoming now.”

As well as serving a wide range of food and drinks, Anton Arms often runs live music and family-friendly parties, with fundraisers held for their chosen charity, Macmillan.

They had an outdoor jubilee event at the start of the month, and every year have an anniversary party, with the last one being neon themed and held in January.

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Clare said: “It’s just about listening to your customers and what they want. When I first came here we used to do music every week, but then other pubs started offering music and it died off, so now we do it a couple of times a month and it’s about finding new things to offer.”

Clare said that, luckily, Greene King was able to keep on and pay all the staff during the pandemic,and that “business has been great since”.

“We were raring to get back to it,” she said.

She added: “I love Andover. I wouldn’t ever move back. I have made friends here, and the support you get around here is great. We have some lovely regulars.”

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