From England with Pub

Nick Gregory’s Adventures Have
Taken Him Around
the World — and Back to Fort Worth.

Dos Equis’s Most Interesting Man in the World has nothing on Fort Worth’s Nick Gregory. The British-born owner of two of the Metroplex’s finest pubs, Ye Olde Bull & Bush and the Royal Falcon, has led a life spread across multiple continents. Nick’s lengthy career in aviation — he received his first license back in the 70s — saw him flying planes in exotic locales such as Sudan and Saudi Arabia. The pilot felt a pull to Texas, however, and landed here to bring Fort Worth a taste of authentic English pub culture.

All pilots are perhaps fueled by wanderlust to some extent. Nick can credit his own case of the travel bug to a pair of globetrotting parents. Though born in Lancashire, Nick spent much of his youth in Africa.

“Mum and dad traveled a lot, and most of my formative years were spent in West Africa,” says Nick. “At a certain point they got worried I might go bush on them, and sent me off to boarding school in England.”

After school, Nick spent some time enlisted in Her Majesty’s Navy, a stint that ended with what he calls a “polite release.” A period of wandering preceded the discovery of his true passion: flight.

“Like a lot of young folks, I drifted around for a bit,” says Nick. “Spent some time studying speech and drama, got a couple qualifications. Then I discovered aviation, which really caught my attention.”

Nick received his private pilot’s license in the United Kingdom, but the expense of study prevented him from pursuing the field further. A flight instructor, sympathetic to Nick’s plight, suggested study in Fort Worth as a more cost-effective alternative. The year was 1979, and though Nick relocated to Sudan after his training, Fort Worth left an impression. The pilot’s time in East Africa came to an unexpected end with the outbreak of the Second Sudanese Civil War.

“I was in the UK at the time, and received a message that I shouldn’t go back,” says Nick of the war. “My brother-in-law in England owned a pub, and I worked there for a bit just for grins.”

Though this represented Nick’s first exposure to the professional side of pubs, he already had a deep respect and fascination for pub culture.

“When you’re English, you grow up with an appreciation for what pubs are all about,” says Nick. “They’ve been a part of British culture for ages. People used to make their own beer, and someone might develop a reputation for it. They’d then open the front room of their home to neighbors, and the house would become a public house. The term stuck.”

An additional stint in Africa and a period of time in Saudi Arabia became interspersed with additional forays into the British pub scene. Nick eventually found his way back to Texas and opened his first pub in 1993. Though that effort failed, it presaged Nick’s creation of Ye Olde Bull & Bush in 1999. Over the past 16 years, the pub has evolved alongside its city and a loyal customer base. In 2009, Nick built upon his success with the opening of the Royal Falcon.

Nick’s original motivation for opening a pub was to provide a wider variety of beer than found in the typical bar. A lot has changed in the intervening decades, with massive beer selections now commonplace; the English pub — the model upon which Nick developed his businesses — still has much to differentiate itself from the typical bar, however.

“A pub is a people place,” explains Nick, “whereas a bar might be full of loud music, lots of drinking, and that sort of thing. One of the best compliments I ever got came from one of my regulars. He said that the reason he thoroughly enjoyed the place was that, after a tough day, he could sit down, have a beer, and still feel challenged by the conversation. That’s what it’s all about: relaxation and a lack of pressure.”

In addition to the atmosphere, patrons of Ye Olde Bull & Bush and the Royal Falcon can also enjoy an excellent selection of brews. The British theme ensures that staples such as Guinness remain in stock, and Nick stays abreast of the beer world to continually offer new selections. As for his “daily specials,” Nick places a clear emphasis on one thing:

“As a customer, the most important event on a daily basis is you,” says Nick. “You are the daily topic of conversation. The crux of the pub business rests on one word: people. People come first, and if you take care of them, the drinks and everything else will take care of itself.”