Debs celebrates 30 years of pulling pints

IT may be a bit of a commute, but Debra Palmer has no intention of calling time on her regular trip from Mangotsfield to work in a pub in Westbury-on-Trym.

Debs first started working part-time at the Post Office Tavern, on Westbury Hill, in April 1993.

And after throwing a party to celebrate her 30th anniversary, she is already planning the next one in five years’ time.

Debs came out from behind the bar to celebrate with customers and managers past and present at the party.

She booked a rock band, Last Resort, which includes a regular among its members and stayed in front of the bar rather than behind – although she still collected glasses to help out her colleagues.

Debs has worked for 17 managers over the years. Brothers Steve and Dennis Fitzgerald, who managed the pub when Debs started working there, and another former manager, Vikki Lewis, joined current manager George Balatoni at the party. She says it is the long-term ties with customers that keep her doing the drive to the pub every Wednesday and every other Friday.

Debs said: “The customers become friends. A lot of them have been drinking there as long as I’ve been working there.

“It’s nice to go somewhere where you know who’s going to come in, what they drink and what glass they like it in – you build up a rapport and you look forward to having conversations with them.”

Debs has a day job as a civil servant, working as a PA based at the Bristol offices of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, although her role has been mainly home-based since the pandemic.

She started working at the pub when a colleague at Defra heard she was on the lookout for a second job, and despite initial misgivings she soon warmed to it.

Debs said: “If I was going to give up any job it would be my day job over the pub job.”

Although the nature of the trade has changed over the decades – Debs says people go out less, and the bar is no longer four-deep every night – there are still busy times, and she prefers working in a “nice pub with nice people” to the idea of a city centre bar.

Debs has no plans to quit now. She said: “I said I’d get to 30 years and see how I feel. Now I’m looking to get to 35 years – I’ve already booked the band in for the anniversary party.”