Sally Harris owns the business at The Gun Inn in Findon and was selected to attend the House of Commons in July to talk to MPs about running a pub in the current climate.
She said: "Over the past year, the pub has really been taken note of, with amazing food, friendly staff and our efforts to keep everyone's spirits up during lockdown via positivity. We also created New Day Coffee Club, a Covid-friendly coffee takeaway service focusing on mental health.
"We have worked hard over 10 years to keep our offer fresh for our guests, whether it is events, food or just being part of the community. This is great recognition."
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The Gun was named Best Overall Pub of the Year 2022 and Best Entertainment Pub at Marston’s 2022 Pub of the Year Awards.
Sally, a tenant partner, said: "It is amazing to win. I’m really proud of all the team here, we’ve worked so hard, and it feels great to have that work recognised by Marston’s. We were up against our peer group across the country, I know there some outstanding pubs, which makes this even more special.”
As a result, she took part in a networking event at Westminster, where she was aiming to focus on helping MPs understand the issues affecting pubs, with a view to making changes.
Sally explained: "We had such great support when it was lockdown but now we are emerging, all the prices are going up and you don't want to pass it all on to the customers by putting your prices up. I have been here 12 years and my electricity bill has doubled. If it carries on, I can't sustain the business."
Previously, Sally was teaching art at Worthing High School and lived across the road. Her ex-husband Lewis ran Pestle & Mortar in Portland Road, Worthing, and when he sold the business in 2010, they were looking for a new business with accommodation.
Sally said The Gun was ideal, as it had somewhere to house their four young children. Lewis became head chef and Sally handled front of house.
She said: "I had never even pulled a pint previously, having been a local school teacher. Over the past 12 years, we have seen so many changes, most notably my children growing up, a pandemic and becoming a single mum of four running a business - I would say alone but I have a fantastic team."
Sally feels proud of all she has achieved and wants to encourage others in these difficult times.
She said: "I am a local small business owner who is doing well in the industry despite the odds. It is about survival and surviving. It is difficult at the moment but we have had such support from people.
"Things have completely changed. The Friday night crowd don't come in so much but we are doing much more food now and the success of Airbnb in the area is bringing in new customers, including international visitors. Coming to Findon is a bit like going out to the country."
The Entertainment Pub award reflected Sally's special events, such as a dog show at Hallowe'en, clothes swap in the garden, poetry for Burns Night, Apres Ski at Christmas and carol singing in the barn.
Next up is the annual GunFest, renamed Gunstock for 2022. This will be a family-friendly day of peace, love and music on Monday, August 29, with live bands and a barbecue.
Ed Hancock, operations director at Marston’s, said: "The Overall Pub of the Year prize is highly coveted across all our pubs and The Gun Inn has continued to grow in its value to its community and its guests in equal measure.
"Sally’s record over a ten-year period is an example of how to get it right. It is important to us that we recognise the achievements of our pubs, and we are tremendously proud of all the winners.”