Your Racy Local
29 May 2015
If you’re looking for a pub where anything goes (within reason!) The Outside Chance is it. On moving to Marlborough in 1999, Howard Spooner decided to visit his local Manton pub, The OddFellowes Arms, with his mini dachshund puppy and children. It was Sunday lunchtime, the pub was empty and he was told there were no muddy boots, no dogs and no children at the bar or at certain tables. So he turned on his heels and left.
Shortly before this event he had been convinced, by his neighbour Nick, to buy a race horse and the following week it ran in Leicester at odds of 100 to 1. Full of optimism for his new purchase, Howard backed it heavily. His gamble paid off as appropriately named ‘Only Dreams’ won so, with his recent visit to his local fresh in his mind, he rung up Wadworth to secure a long lease on the Manton pub. After a substantial renovation, The Outside Chance launched in honour of its main benefactor Only Dreams. Howard now owns the pub jointly with AP McCoy, a partnership which has really helped pull in the punters and secure its reputation as a racing brand.
Howard is no stranger to entertainment venues having made his fortune in nightclubs in London. Always independently minded and following a premature exit from school in Scotland, Howard put his entrepreneurial skills to the test when he answered an ad to sell kitchens to council houses in London. Like most successful entrepreneurs there’s been the rough with the smooth. Howard soon set-up his own business putting in payphones to hospitals and schools which he sold at 21. Full of the fervour of money making, but too young to understand the complexities of such deals and the need for lawyers, he spent the next year partying in his rented house with swimming pool in London only to be shafted by the buyers. The same happened with his next business – a weekly newspaper advertising houses & flats to let within the M25. After sharing his learnings with another newspaper he was shut down.
Penniless again, Howard was drowning his sorrows in a new, empty nightclub when he found himself chatting to the owner who was commiserating over going bust. Howard offered to step into his shoes and in 1994 Embargo was up and running. A great success he ended up selling it 3 times only to be given half back by the owners each sale.
The ex-Londoners amongst us will remember drunken times at Embargo and Howard’s other nightclubs – The Clapham Grand, The Leopard Lounge, the Hammersmith Palais and Crazy Larrys amongst others. Crazy Larrys morphed into Public which Howard owned with Guy Pelly. A favourite of Prince Harry’s his popularity was their downfall. The waiting crowds of his fan club were too much for the residents of the area and eventually after 18 months it was shut down. Although most of Howard’s nightclubs are now sold he has had the Clapham Grand for 18 years.
Howard is now closely involved in the day to day management of The Outside Chance along with Scott Hull, Rosie Lampard and Pie (Chris Wyatt). It’s not a gastro, drinker’s pub or a restaurant but a fun pub open to everything - good, unpretentious food with attention to flavour and presentation. There are regular quiz and curry nights, biannual poker games, horse racing syndicates and it’s been a venue for many a wedding, birthday party and AP McCoy’s 4000th winner celebration. The pub has seen some well-known names – Alex Ferguson. Frankie Dettori, Richard Hughes amongst others. They also run pop-up events at venues like Newbury Racecourse, Badminton and Cheltenham Racecourse to take their small pub to a wider audience. And an extension is planned to add more tables inside.
Howard isn’t going anywhere soon and is invested in The Outside Chance for the long run. He lives with his wife Lucy and daughter Roxie, 1, in nearby Clatford with regular visits from his older children Lettice and Felix. With a new member of their family on the way and brother and parents living nearby, he couldn’t envisage living anywhere else. The whole reason Howard wanted the pub was to offer somewhere that let you do things you couldn’t do in other pubs – so give it a try – bring your children, dogs, horse or cat – ‘anything goes’.