Pub of the week: Pub’s family atmosphere brings World Cup experience to town

PUBLISHED: 15:41 20 June 2014

EDP Pub of the Week - The Railway Tavern in Dereham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

EDP Pub of the Week - The Railway Tavern in Dereham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

As far as about 500 football fans in Dereham are concerned the Railway Tavern pub on Yaxham Road is the only place to watch the World Cup.

At heart of the community

One of the key elements that ensures the Railway Tavern stays at the top of the league of pubs is its team spirit.

It runs a number of sports teams in local leagues including the Tavern Old Boys football veterans, Dereham Taverners Saturday football league team, men’s and ladies’ darts and pool.

They sponsor Toftwood Youth football, Bradenham Cricket Club and Bradenham Football Club and run a very popular poker night.

They also support many local charities, recently holding events for Breast Cancer Awareness and Dereham Cancer Care.

Their most successful campaign was raising £20,000 through various events for the Light Dragoons Colonel’s Appeal including the First Dereham Prom Night and a fun calendar featuring the locals.

The pub, run by Paul and Debbie Sandford and their daughter Martha, was packed for England’s opening match against Italy on Saturday, and last night against Uruguay.

But the family-run business is not just banking on the town’s football following to fill the venue once every four years – their World Cup atmosphere carries on all year long building up an enviable reputation among the town’s drinking holes.

Mr Sandford said they took over the business from his wife’s sister and mother four years ago just before the last World Cup in South Africa.

“We took it on in the April and although the pub was busy people were just inside and there was limited space for them to watch it.

“Since then we have added a covered verandah and a marquee with screens everywhere so we can get up to 500 people in here at one time.

“Considering the games are on terrestrial TV so people can watch them at home they still want to come out and enjoy the atmosphere we have created. That is what it is all about. It’s unique.”

The garden also now includes its own raised seating area with the games beamed onto a huge white screen so fans can feel like they are actually in the stadium watching it live. Neighbouring business Doors Plus have sponsored all the screens, keen to support the pub’s success.

Mr Sandford, who runs a fitness centre, said the key was knowing the area and the people well and knowing what they want from their local.

“We have families coming down here with young children and they say it is like coming on holiday.” The outdoor play area and sandpit, affectionately called Yaxham Road beach, add to the family feel and their award-winning fish and chip shop next door is always busy.

Twenty-year-old Martha took over as manager six months ago and said she used her experience working as a promotions manager for a chain of Norwich nightclubs to run events to attract new customers.

“We are always trying to do something different,” she said.

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