Tax expert hopes to reopen Norwich’s Panda bar in bid to ‘resurrect the city’

PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 September 2020 | UPDATED: 06:41 14 September 2020

Jon Hook, who is hoping to take over the Panda bar in Norwich. Pic: Archant

Jon Hook, who is hoping to take over the Panda bar in Norwich. Pic: Archant


A Norwich businessman is planning to run the Panda Bar which closed earlier this year because of “crippling rates.”

Jodie and Jon Hook. Pic: Jon HookJodie and Jon Hook. Pic: Jon Hook

Jon Hook, who is managing director of Norwich Accountancy Services, is hoping, subject to getting approval for a licence, to reopen the venue in Redwell Street by October as a cocktail bar. He also said it will serve tapas-style food.

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The Panda bar, which could be reopening in October under the new tenant, Jon Hook. Pic: ArchantThe Panda bar, which could be reopening in October under the new tenant, Jon Hook. Pic: Archant

It marks the second new business for Mr Hook who earlier this week announced he and his wife Jodie were taking over the former Tea House in Wright’s Court, Elm Hill. This tearoom also closed earlier this year and Mrs Hook is going to be running the venue serving home-made lunches and afternoon teas.

The Panda bar closed back in January with its owners launching an appeal to lower the business rates.

Mr Hook said the business rates had now been reduced from around £60,000 a year to £40,000 and he was bidding for a further reduction.

The bar had been available for rental with agents Christie & Co which had stated it could take up to two years to find a new tenant.

The Panda bar, Redwell street. Pic: ArchantThe Panda bar, Redwell street. Pic: Archant

Mr Hook has now made an application to Norwich City Council for a licence and is awaiting the outcome. He told this newspaper: “The hope is to get the ground floor and basement open for the build-up for Christmas. It shut back in January because of excessive business rates.

“The key thing is to ensure success with the venture which will be a cocktail bar and serving of food but more tapas, oysters, prawns, not full-on meals.

“We have a plan to resurrect this Fine City so please come and support us.”

After the owners of the building put it up for rental, they said at the time they were hoping for an independent leaseholder rather than a chain.

The bar, previously popular as a place for a glass of prosecco after work, opened in September 2018, replacing the Norwich Tap House which closed in January, 2018. At the time of closure, a statement issued on behalf of the Sheena Ann Turner Will Trust, the landlord of Panda Bar, blamed warm weather favouring pubs with gardens as well as a ‘massive’ increase in rates ‘making profit impossible.’

Mr Hook, who hails from Australia, has worked in accountancy for the last 23 years specialising in revenue law and previously worked in the taxation division at Coopers & Lybrand (now PriceWaterhouseCoopers) before setting up his own business.

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