Sunday, 15 December 2019

Brewery pledges to return village pub to former glory

THE new owner of a pub in Benson says it wants to return the pub to its former glory.

The Hook Norton Brewery, near Banbury, has taken over the Crown Inn in High Street from Greene King.

The company is looking for an “experienceed” operator to take on a five-year tenancy, paying rent of £35,000 in the first year and then £45,000 in the second.

It says: “The Crown is a new acquisition for Hook Norton Brewery and will benefit from a large capital investment in order to restore the pub to its former glory.

“We are looking for an experienced operator who shares our passion and vision to re-establish the business with a strong all-round offer across food, drink and letting rooms.

“There is one single room and five double/twin rooms. All rooms will benefit from new bathroom facilities which will assist in maximising the occupancy rates.” Hook Norton, which is one of 32 family run breweries in the UK, plans to extend the car park at the back of the pub to create 25 spaces.

The company says: “There is a barn off the beer garden, which in the past has been used as a tea room but could be utilised as a meeting/small function room or a games/children’s play area.

“There is a large second barn which is currently used for storage but could be converted into additional letting or a larger function facility.”

The brewery’s application for new signage has been approved by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

A report by planning officer Roseanne Lillywhite stated “The building is in a prominent location in Benson village centre. However, the current signage is faded and is not of special importance.

“The replacement signage is like-for-like in terms of the amount of lighting proposed and uses a dark blue background with neutral white wording.”

The application was supported by several residents.

Rob Workman, of Brook Street, said: “The proposals look fantastic and we welcome Hook Norton Brewery to the village with their fine, hoppy ales.

“Greene King have run this beautiful coaching inn into the ground.”

The Crown is one of only two pubs in the village along with the Three Horseshoes in Oxford Road. The bar area can cater for up to 35 people seated while the restaurant has about 30 covers.

Benson Parish Council had been exploring the possibility of buying the pub, which had an asking price of £495,000.

The council had previously succeeded in having it listed as an asset of community value, meaning the community had six months to bid for the pub before it could be sold on the open market, although Greene King didn’t have to accept a bid.

Council chairman Bill Pattison suggested that the site could be used for car parking.

From 2013 to early 2016, the pub was run by Tim and Germaine
Cullimore. The couple asked the council to consider the idea of the community taking it over as they said they could no longer make a living from the business.

The pub was then taken over by Gary Flux, who runs the Shepherd’s Hut in Ewelme, but he left in September last year. Since December, the Crown has been managed by Tim Harwood, who said takings were increasing and the accommodation had been re-opened.

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