The Jolly Anglers in Reading was transformed over lockdown – and even has its own pool
A licensee who wanted to bring a taste of the holidays we have all missed to his Reading pub has won the BT Sport Manager of the Month Award.
Xhemail Zeqiri used the time presented by the COVID enforced lockdowns to completely overhaul the outside space at the riverside pub he has run for two years.
The centre piece is a stunning swimming pool that gives the 100 customers who can fit outside genuine holiday vibes.
He has also introduced a hot tub, decking, an outside bar, and two giant outdoor screens to ensure sports fans get the perfect view of the action.
The look was unveiled when BT Sport visited Xhemail to present the trophy – and a £1,000 voucher to spend in the BT shop – on the night of the Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City.
Xhemail, originally from Kosovo and a former pro footballer in the German third tier, explains his vision.
“I looked at loads of pubs and with this one it was a bit rundown but I saw the potential in it – especially in the garden.
“We have made the garden into something special so you feel relaxed out here. Whenever you go on holiday you see British people by the pool and bar looking at the big screen and they are happy so I thought ‘we can do that in the UK.
“We have the river at the front and the pool at the back. It is so relaxing to be by water and that is what we are going for.”
The overall impact may be one of a tranquil calm, but the process to get to that stage was anything but. More than 3,000 tiles have been used to finish the pool, with work complete on the morning of the Champions League final.
The pool will also provide the pub with an additional revenue stream. Xhemail plans to hire out the pool and bar for private parties.
He is even converting rooms at the pub into B&Bs so guests can use the pool as part of their stay at the Jolly Anglers.
He also says he is only “20% complete” with the outside space project – which has already cost around £100,000 – with ambitious plans to cover the area and buy properties nearby to grow the space.
Whatever he does, sport will remain at the heart of the community local.
“Live sport is so important to us. We have TVs throughout and the customers love it. The big screens we have outside are 86ins and they have attracted lots of people into the garden.
“We have loads of football fans and we have rugby fans in here as well.
“BT Sport is very important to us, especially the Champions League. We recently received a visit from the and they gave us more promotional material which is extremely helpful.”
Xhemail’s hard work in transforming the pub has led to him winning the BT Sport Manager of the Month award, a title he is rightly proud of.
“I have never won a trophy before!” he says, “So hopefully this is the first of many. I feel very happy to have won this.
“I am not sure what I will spend the money on yet, perhaps something for the community.”
Xhemail joins the likes of Paul Dexter and Keith Goddard of in landing the much coveted award.
- Do you, or do you know someone who deserves to be considered for a BT Sport Manager of the Month award? Let us know why on Twitter by tagging in @BTSportBars and using the hashtag #BTMOTM.