The irony isn’t lost on Philip Barden.

As a teenager, his first paid job was washing up at the Golden Cock, Farnley Tyas. “I lasted two weeks,” he says. “And I thought: ‘Never again!’'"

But now the 37-year-old is pulling pints – and even occasionally washing pots – as the boss of two Huddersfield town centre hostelries.

Philip is owner of Herbert’s Bar in Cross Church Street and managing director of Northern Taps, which is just around the corner in King Street. He opened both premises over a frenetic 13-month period during the height of the recession. A bit impetuous, perhaps – but he’s got no regrets.

Philip was brought up in Lepton and attended King James’ School at Almondbury before going to Huddersfield Technical College and Salford Construction College to become a fully trained contract flooring layer.

He worked for Granada TV Rentals and got an NVQ in retail sales before joining his father, Tony Barden, who had his own flooring company, AJB FLoorcoverings, at St Thomas’ Road, Longroyd Bridge.

“I started sweeping up at the age of 18,” says Philip. “I had a year-and-a-half at Salford College and won Floor Layer of the Year – which is my only major accolade!”

Philip took a sabbatical at the age of 23 and lived in the French Alps for five-and-a-half months where he enjoyed snowboarding. “I had friends who were taking a year out from university to travel and I’d missed out on all that,” he says. “I was thankful to my dad for letting me do that. It was the making of me. Before that, the most time I’d spent away from Huddersfield was two weeks.”

The flooring business went from strength to strength, at its peak employing 74 people including sub-contractors. Philip ran his own department, primarily selling to the retail sector, with a couple of people working directly for him.

However, the company took a huge hit – along with much of the home improvement and construction sector – after the 2008 banking crisis. “We went from 75 people to about 20,” says Philip. “It was horrible. People I had worked with for more than 10 years were made redundant. Eventually, the business folded.

“So, it was a case of ‘what do I do now?’ By then, I had two children – aged one and two.”

After a couple of false starts in business, Philip found his forte with Herbert’s Bar. “I spoke to Jonathan Hardy, the manager at the Kingsgate centre, who said the premises were available. I said I’d take it. Within two weeks the deal was done and within two months we were open. I’d never sold a pint of beer in my life – although I’d frequented a few pubs! I had to apply for the licence quicksticks while we were fitting out the pub.”

Owner Philip Barden at Herbert's Bar in Cross Church Street
Owner Philip Barden at Herbert's Bar in Cross Church Street
 

Philip’s flooring experience came in handy during the fit-out – while help also came from close friends Ashley Daykin, a joiner, and electrician Robert Matthews. “If it hadn’t been for them, it wouldn’t have happened,” Philip insists.

Seizing another opportunity, Philip opened Northern Taps in December, 2012, following a nine-week fit-out which involved making a feature of its exposed beams and brickwork. The aim was to complement the “pub food” image of Herbert’s Bar with an upmarket town centre restaurant complete with first floor function room – the Rekorderlig Suite – capable of seating 22 for a full meal or accommodating up to 50 for a buffet.

Philip is joind in the Northern Taps venture by business partners Wayne Roddis and Rick Dunn, of Mustard & Punch in Honley. While Wayne is based full-time at the popular Honley eatery, Rick is executive chef at Nothern Taps.

Together, Herbert’s Bar and Northern Taps employ 27 people, some of them students but others locals with years of experience in the trade.

Philip recognises the gamble he took in pressing ahead with the two projects at a time of recession – and when town centre retailing is under massive threat. “There’s a fine line between stupidity and bravery,” he says with a smile. “But if your ideas are good and you can put yourself in your customer’s shoes you can make it work.

“People sometimes try to force the issue because – in their own mind – they think something is a good idea. I try to be objective and I am very self-critical about the business because I want it to be 100% perfect. Of course, no business will never be 100% right. It’s about making it 90% right, making sure you have the right people around you and that people do the things they are good at – and are trained to do the things they’re less good at. I knew I needed a management team with a history in pubs and the high street. Now we’ve put that team together.”

Says Philip: “I’m very hands-on. I’m here every day and I can pull a good pint now! It’s quite an art form! I get in after taking the kids to school, have a look at the previous day’s takings, talk to the chef and the day manager to discuss the menu and any issues. It’s about communicating. I encourage staff members to tell me the truth about things rather than surrounding myself with ‘yes men’.”

He’s quick to credit others who have helped him, including his father Tony and accountant Michael Bell. “Michael is trying to help me become a businessman,” he says.

Philip believes Huddersfield town centre is in “a transitional period”. He says: “The town centre is all the better for things like the Food and Drink Festival and the Huddersfield Partnership is doing a good job. They are trying to create something.

“Huddersfield is big enough to be a ‘destination’ for people, but small enough to be friendly. It’s the biggest village in England!”

If he’s a big supporter of Huddersfield as a town, Philip is an even bigger follower of its football team. A lifelong Town fan, Philip named Herbert’s Bar in honour of legendary Town manager Herbert Chapman. The bar also sponsors homegrown goalkeeper Alex Smithies and is building business relationships with the club,

Philip played football for Lepton Highlanders and Meltham when he was younger and more recently played five-a-side until an injury forced him to stop. Now he focuses on coaching the under-sevens at Lepton, where his son Han is an enthusiastic member of the 27-strong squad.

Says Philip: “The first Town game I attended was when I was 18 months old with my dad. I’m afraid I put my little lad through the same turmoil! ”