PUB licensee Joe Mooney has served his community for quarter of a century – and there’s no sign of him calling time just yet.
It’s 25 years since he arrived at The Steamboat pub on the Mill Dam, South Shields.
And his time behind the bar has coincided with remarkable changes in the riverside area and beyond.
Back in 1989, shipyards on the Tyne were still operating, as were local collieries. And the nearby Customs House, now a thriving arts complex, stood derelict.
The licensing trade itself has also changed beyond recognition, with the emergence of real ale over the last two decades.
The Steamboat has been at the forefront of that revolution and has been named the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) pub of the year for South Tyneside and Sunderland on several occasions.
Today, shipyard worker regulars may be a distant memory, but Joe’s charismatic management style and his friendly staff ensure the pub retains a fiercely loyal customer base.
Father-of-four Joe, 66, who lives above the premises, said: “When I first arrived here in 1989, the pub was tied to Vaux and we had to buy our beer from them.
“I sold 11 gallons of beer in the first week – these days it’s nearer 200 gallons – and our customers were mostly bikers and workers from the docks.”
Working with the community and supporting a host of charities, Joe and his team soon improved the watering hole’s image, and in 1990 it was named the Gazette’s Pub of the Year.
There have been all sorts of activities associated with the premises over the years, including a book club, male and female hockey teams, quizzes, rock nights and several darts teams.
After the Pubmaster group took over from Vaux, Joe gained greater freedom to increase the range of real ales, and today it has nine hand pumps and stages regular real ale festivals.
Joe said: “We have loyal customers because we have the right staff with the right attitude and we also keep bad customers out. Once someone is barred, they are barred for life.”
Aside from the quality of the ales, the pub, now part of the Punch Taverns group, is filled with a treasure trove of photographs and seafaring memorabilia – much of it donated by regulars.
Another highlight is a remarkable clay model of Joe’s face created by artist Davy Stone for his 50th birthday.
Over the years, Joe, whose wife Pat passed away 14 years ago, has called on members of his family to work behind the bar, including his late daughter Kerry Lee and grandchildren Ricci and Jake.
Current bar manager Kath Brain summed up why Joe and the pub have continued to have success while others have floundered.
She said: “Joe is a friendly and loveable character with an excellent sense of humour and is laidback about letting me run the bar.
“Twenty five years at one pub is a remarkable achievement, I don’t know anyone else who’s achieved that. He’s a one-off, and we all hope he’s here for another quarter of a century.”