Bar for sale after businessman scraps reopening project

Panda Bar, Redwell Street, Norwich

Norwich's Panda bar which is for sale for £395,000. - Credit: Christie & Co

A Norwich bar that was taken over by a tax expert a year ago with the aim of reinvigorating part of the city is up for sale for £395,000.

Jon Hook, Norwich Accountancy Services

Jon Hook. - Credit: Archant

The former Panda and Taphouse bar in Redwell Street was taken on by Jon Hook in January 2020 before Covid struck. Mr Hook, who runs Norwich Accountancy Services, urged people to support his new venture.

But he said he had pulled out because the building, over three floors, "needed considerably more work" than first anticipated.

He said he managed to drive down the "crippling" business rates - blamed for Panda's closure in 2019 - from around £60,000 a year to £40,000. He was also attempting to get a bigger reduction and successfully gained a licence from the city council after having to reapply last year.

His plan was to make Panda into a cocktail bar serving tapas-style food.

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But Mr Hook, who was leasing the building which is owned by the Sheena Ann Turner will trust, stated it required too much work for him.

"We are looking for a hospitality business not a development project. It has nothing to do with Covid. 

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"Whilst we would have loved to bring Panda back to life, sadly the building required significant infrastructure improvements which made it prohibitive for us to reopen it as a going concern. We wish the new owners well."

Sign for Panda bar in Norwich

The Panda bar in Norwich is for sale. - Credit: Archant

Mr Hook and his wife Jodie also took on the former Tea House in Elm Hill, successfully reopening that as the Courtyard Cafe. Mrs Hook runs the business.

Panda 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 owner blamed warm weather favouring pubs with gardens as well as a "massive" increase in rates making profit impossible.

The bar is for sale with a "number of unfurnished rooms on the first and second floors currently used for storage and all in need of refurbishment."

Agent Christie & Co said, subject to planning approval: "These areas would be ideal for additional bar or restaurant facilities and/or private living accommodation."

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