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The publicans of a much-loved Harpenden local have received a prestigious award to mark more than two decades at the helm.


The award from the pub’s owners – Star Pubs & Bars – recognises the contribution that Harpenden born-and-bred Pete Mann and Mike Fisher – who comes from St Albans – have made to The Engineer on St John’s Road and the community since taking over in 2002.


Pete was just 23 and a regular of The Engineer when the duo took it on. Recalls Pete, who lives down the road from pub: “I’ve known the Engineer all my life – it’s a lovely pub and was where I had my first pint with my friends as young man, so it’s very special to me. I’ve worked in pubs since my early teens and, when The Engineer became available, I jumped at the chance to take it on with Mike and give it the new lease of life it needed to keep it thriving for the long-term.”


Over the years, Pete and Mike have remained true to their goal, investing more than £750,000 to turn The Engineer into a top quality local that caters for all ages and occasions. The pub – which dates back to the 1860s* – now boasts: a spacious bar with comfy sofas; a separate sports bar kitted out with darts and screens showing Sky and TNT Sports; a dog-friendly family room complete with board games, and an elegant dining and function room that hosts family celebrations, ranging from birthdays to baby showers for local residents. 


During the challenges of the pandemic, Mike and Pete refused to “call time. Instead they gave the garden a major makeover so it was ready to welcome people back when restrictions allowed. As well as a teepee and outside bar, the garden has heated and lighted pods, a pretty terrace and two grassed areas, one with a wendy house where children can play.


Whilst The Engineer is known for pulling a perfect pint and its freshly prepared food – the Sunday roasts, house burger and fish & chips are favourites – the friendliness of its 26 staff is another a major reason why customers remain loyal. Many have been regulars for well over 20 years and three generations of some Harpenden families frequent the pub. 


Mike and Pete put on a host of activities to bring residents together, including quiz and music nights. The duo also support the wider town, helping run the Harpenden beer festival, sponsoring the cricket club and donating to schools. 


Adds Pete: “We never thought we’d be here this long and now can’t envisage leaving. We still love running The Engineer, and that’s down to our fantastic staff and customers. Like any good local, there are lots of laughs and fun, but people look out for each other and help each other through any difficulties. Our customers are incredibly supportive of the pub; we can’t thank them enough.”


Comments Dan Hayward, Star Pubs & Bars’ area manager for Harpenden: “This is a very well deserved award. Pete and Mike care about the community and have put their all into The Engineer, creating an outstanding pub that meets everyone’s needs. They never rest on their laurels and are always coming up with new ideas to keep The Engineer at the top of its game. We wish them many more happy years behind the bar.”


* Believed to have been built by 1865, The Engineer is said by some locals to have originally been called ‘The Bird in Hand’ but become known as The Engineer after the nearby railway from London to Bedford was built in 1868.