After Home Away from Home is Extinguished, Two British Friends Open Three Lions
Following fire at British-style tavern, the former pub's two managers and longtime friends realized their local slice of home in Three Lions Pub.
The English pub is homogeneous to a community hub, providing a venue for locals to come and expound on culture, David Price says.
It's much more than just a place to grab a "pint and a bite."
“It's a place to go watch soccer, a cozy little pub like back home, where you can come on your own and read a book or come with 20 people and have a party,” Price said.
Price and longtime friend Christopher Tinker both grew up in small towns situated between Manchester and Liverpool in the United Kingdom, where they came to digest the paramountcy of the local pub to the English communities they serve.
They made the journey to Milwaukee in early 2003, on scholarships to play soccer and study at Cardinal Stritch University, in a group of five. It was in Shorewood where Price and Tinker would inevitably find their home away from home: Shorewood's Brit Inn.
They co-managed the local British-style pub since it opened in 2006, with the freedom to make it their own.
“Those two guys were the Brit Inn,” former owner Agapitos Nikolau said.
Price and Tinker created an authentic British style pub experience in Brit Inn, ensuring they served the 20-ounce pints, instead of the traditional 16-ounce American pints, started a pub quiz and gave it a "cozy-little pub" atmosphere unique to pubs in England.
But on May 26, 2009, flames tore through the Brit Inn, transforming it into a dilapidated shell of its former affluence.
Tinker got the phone call that morning, informing him his pub located at 4473 N. Oakland Ave. had burned to the ground, in an early morning blaze that fire officials later ruled arson.
"It was like, 'What do we do now?'" Price recalled.
"We cared about that place a lot," Tinker said. "We met a lot of good people there."
A police investigation into the fire has stalled, and the property owner, Byung Kuk Yun, has pledged to rebuild, but it would take years to do so. Price and Tinker decided they would fulfill a dream they had for years of owning their own pub.
"We're always talked about going into business together," Price said.
With the effects of the recent recession, and some economists predicting a second recession on the horizon, Price and Tinker knew they were taking a risk. But they pushed forward and opened Three Lions Pub right up the block from the former Brit Inn in December 2010, joining several other local businesses new to the village, and continuing to buck the national trend.
Two friends open Three Lions
Price and Tinker met in school, competing in soccer leagues and hanging out in the same crowd.
Two of the three other friends they ventured to America with have left the country, but Price and Tinker decided to stay and manage to Brit Inn, and take advantage of opportunities in Milwaukee.
“We wanted to do something different than what everyone of our friends were doing,” Price said.
Price said he grew up without a place like Three Lions or Brit Inn and felt there was a niche in Shorewood that wasn't being filled.
"This is what we're both good at," Price said. "And we enjoy it."
Tinker said he was confident they would succeed with their new venture, mainly because of a research project he did in graduate school, which found that during an economic downturn, the consumption of alcohol doesn't decrease.
They said they wanted to create a cozy place for patrons, like an extension of their living room, with Three Lions.
"A place like home," Price said. “A place that blends the community together across age groups. There isn’t a lot of places like that.”
However, in doing so, they said they didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and asked Nikolau to join their new venture. But, he said he didn’t want to be in the bar business anymore.
Yet, it would take some time and hurdle jumping to see Three Lions Pub come to fruition.
Getting up and running
Price said after months of searching for a home for Three Lions, they finally settled on the storefront Shorewood's North Star American Bistro had just vacated to move into the new Cornerstone development across the street. Finally, they had found their spot, but securing financing wouldn't be easy, with either having any credit history and their parents living in England with no American ties.
“Well, I thought, if no one is going to give me a chance, I’m going to make my own chance,” Price said.
They pleaded with North Shore Bank for a loan, but it became apparent pretty quickly their loan application wouldn't be accepted.
So, they had to tap their families for money.
"It's a scary thing. I remember getting the money and my father calling me and saying, 'That's my inheritance, don't screw it up,'" Price joked. "But I would have never gone to him if I didn't feel it was safe and I wasn't confident in what I was doing."
And, it was anything but smooth sailing in the week Three Lions Pub opened.
“We went in at first, not truly knowing how much hard work it would take,” Price said. “We fell asleep here many nights, working 15-to-24 hour days, doing things ourselves, trying to cut costs."
Price and Tinker say their neighboring business, especially North Star, helped with the growing pains associated with opening a new business.
“We went over there and asked, ‘Can we borrow some olives? Can you give us some change?’ and they were right behind us," Price said.
Price says they hope to become a bigger part of the community as their business grows.
"What is unique is we have 15 to 20 employees and we've been able to give something back and hire people during tough times," Price said.
And, the friends hope to build on their local pub with some improvements, including a monitor above the bar with live video of a pub in England, some new menu items and better customer service.
Price said he has also been pushing the Shorewood Business Improvement District to brand the area near East Kensington Boulevard and North Oakland Avenue, with all the new storefronts like Three Lions and NaNa Asian Fusion adding to already established storefronts like Village Pub and North Star American Bistro, as Kensington Square.
They're also looking to expand and build another location in Milwaukee in the future.
But more than anything, Price hopes others look at his and Tinker's story and feel inspired to push for what they aspire to achieve in life, with hard work.
"We have worked so hard to get this far," Price said. "We have proven that it can be done, there is an American Dream."
"I'm a Brit, living the American Dream."