�2m Dereham pub to open in April

Up to 45 jobs are expected to be created in Dereham when a �2m pub and hotel redevelopment is completed in spring.

Pub giant JD Wetherspoon is renovating the former Phoenix Hotel on Church Street, with contractors on target to complete the work in time for a scheduled opening date of April 12.

To honour one of Dereham's most famous literary sons, the pub will be renamed the Romany Rye after a book written by novelist George Borrow, who was born in the town in 1803.

As well as reopening 22 en-suite hotel rooms, Wetherspoon will also revive the pub's function room and conference facilities within a 3,715sq ft trade area.

The reopened Romany Rye could provide a welcome tonic for punters in Dereham, following last month's closure of its central Cherry Tree pub – although existing bars were warned they would need to find ways to compete with their new national rival.

A Wetherspoon spokesman said every effort had been made to give the pub a unique character which reflected its location, while retaining the community facilities previously hosted by the landmark building.

Property development manager Paul Gillings said: 'It is important to make the point we don't want to be seen as a big chain. It is all about creating individual pubs and fitting in with the community we arrive in.

Most Read

'Where we take on board a big building like this, we try to maintain it rather than taking it away from the community. We always look for areas where we can provide a positive impact and work sympathetically with the buildings we have got.'

Mr Gillings said building work was on schedule, with 90pc of the structural alterations already complete, a new kitchen installed awaiting equipment, and timber panelling and floor finishes about to be applied in the trade area.

Richard Morgan, project manager for architects RJD, said the literary theme inspired by the pub's namesake would be continued in 'zones' attributed to local writers and poets.

William Cowper, Lady Eleanor Fenn, Brian Aldiss and George Borrow will all feature through commissioned art and sculpture to depict facets of their work.

'We try to pull together a lot of local history and that will be reflected in the artwork you will see inside,' said Mr Morgan.

Mike Spivey, pub preservation officer for the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said the town's surviving pubs had to ensure they remained competitive when the Romany Rye opened for business.

'It is always a bit of a 'catch 22' when Wetherspoon moves in,' he said. 'From a beer-drinkers point of view, they are normally a good place, but it can make things difficult for existing pubs.

'It might just concentrate their minds and force them to up their game a bit. Maybe they need to cater for particular markets. If you can get sports clubs to use your pub on regular nights it would help, or you may need to do decent quizzes or traditional pub games like darts or pool.'