Preaching to the Pub

Christians tried to ban swearing, teach the Bible while running London tavern.

ByAmmu Kannampilly

LONDON, July 5, 2008 — -- No one could accuse Krista and John Fleming of lacking ambition.

When the devout British Christian couple took over the management of a North London pub, the Kings Head, less than a year ago, they decided to serve up a helping of Christianity to their customers.

But the locals were none too impressed, especially when the Flemings banned gambling on horse racing, took down the dart board and put up a sign outside the tavern reading "No Swearing."

Pub regulars told the Daily Telegraph that Krista Fleming, 36, would walk around the tables, armed with a Bible, and tell people off for swearing.

John Rudkn, 61, a regular at the Kings Head, said, "Any swearing and you were barred. It was well over the top."

His wife added, "You can't run a pub and not swear. If they are Christians, they should run a church, not a bloody pub."

Her words were echoed by another regular, Rose, 57, who told the Daily Mail, "They should have built pews in here rather than chairs. I have no problem with their religion but ... a pub is a pub. They started having a quiz and loads of the questions were on the Bible."

Sexagenarian George Whipps told the Mail, "Those two were almost the ruin of this place. They told everyone who swore once they would be banned. They barred people who had been coming here for 30-odd years."

The Flemings upset so many of the pub's regulars that earnings fell steeply, leading the pub owners, Oakfield Taverns Limited, to fire them and replace them with a more easygoing landlord, Jim Jennings.

But the couple refuses to go quietly, having barricaded themselves, with three of their six children, in a flat above the pub.

In an interview with the Mail, the Flemings said they only acted on the owner's instructions.

Their brief, they said, was to change the pub to make it more woman-friendly, so two women could "come into the pub, buy a bottle of wine and feel comfortable drinking it."

"We have a very strong faith and we have good family values," they said, adding, "What we were trying to do was fulfill a remit."

Whether their brief included lessons on how to be good Christians is unclear.

The Flemings insisted that they only acted out of "common decency and the pub struggled because the owners let them down."

Krista Fleming claimed that the owners had withdrawn the pub's Sky Sports TV coverage, closed its credit card machine, and that the pub's drinks supply was inconsistent, because of problems with the brewery.

Now, the case will go before a county tribunal in 10 days' time, on July 14.

The new landlord took over three weeks ago and is said to be of a more liberal bent.

If there was any discomfort between himself and the former landlords, living right above his place of work, he refused to discuss it, telling ABC News that he was forbidden to talk about the Flemings until the case was closed.

Officers at Oakfield Taverns did not return ABC News' calls for comment.

But Kings Head regulars, like Whipps, are happy.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Whipps said, "I'm glad it's back to normal," adding, "This pub in the last eight days has perked up 100 percent. All of the old regulars are back."

And, just to make the point that some traditions at English pubs may never change, a blackboard has been erected in the Kings Head, stating, "Swearing Now Allowed."

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