The Mitre pub in Norwich reopens thanks to £600,000 investment by congregation of neighbouring church
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
A once-popular city pub has reopened following a £600,000 investment by the congregation of a neighbouring church.
The Mitre, in Earlham Road, was purchased for just under £500,000 by St Thomas Church at the start of the 2016.
Since then, volunteers have transformed the building, which was last used as a Chinese takeaway, into a community cafe, bar and bistro.
The not-for-profit venture, which opened to customers for the first time since 2015 on Monday, was made possible thanks to the 400-strong congregation of the church next door.
David Lloyd, associate vicar at St Thomas, said: 'It was about £500,000 to buy the pub and another £100,000 to renovate it.
'But there was no fundraising or grants to pay for it all. Instead it was all made possible thanks to the congregation's generosity.'
Funded by donations, the building's renovation was also carried out by volunteers.
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While the ground floor is home to the main bar and restaurant, the upstairs area will be used by community groups.
'We hope upstairs will become a HQ for social action,' Mr Lloyd added. 'Downstairs is for community engagement and fun, but it is also for generating profit to fund that social action.'
The church will run the pub through its trading arm and any profit will go towards a handful of chosen charities.
They include the International Justice Mission, which aims to combat people trafficking.
Terry Huggins, managing director of church's trading arm, said the premises was open to suggestions about any future events.
He said: 'We've had some ideas, like a quiet acoustic evening or a board game night. Someone also mentioned the possibility of hosting an afternoon tea.
'We want to know what the community would like here.'
For the first few weeks, the premises will only be open from 8.30am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday.
During that time people will be able to order breakfasts and lunch, as well as choose from a variety of craft beers by the bottle.
But within two months of opening, the hours will be extended to 8.30am to 9pm, Monday to Sunday.
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What the customers had to say
It was a busy opening day for the Mitre, with customers at almost every table.
Archie Noone, who lives in Scotland but was married at the church next door, said: 'There is no comparison [to how it was]. It's a lot lighter and more airy, and should be a good meeting point for the congregation and general public.'
Susan Lush, 57, from Earlham Road, said: 'It's brilliant and the food is really good. The only thing I find a bit difficult in here is the noise, but other than that it's great.'
Joy Hartles, 25, said she had previously used the premises when it was operating as a Chinese takeaway.
She added: 'It had been so run down and dark, but we always knew it had potential. There are lots of pubs, but not many cafes so we need something like this.'
Louise Jackson, 24, who is a member of the church's congregation, said: 'The food and drink is really good and it's a place I definitely want to bring my friends to.'
History of the Mitre
The Mitre is a well-known Norwich landmark on Earlham Road.
When it was first put up for sale in 1859, it was described as 'well-suited for a genteel family' and included a 15 sq ft drawing room, six bedrooms, a gardener's cottage with three rooms and a pump on the premises.
It was first licensed as a pub in 1867 by Elijah Cole, who was said to have purchased the cottage for £750.
By 1900 the main house had been enlarged to include a club room.
The premises closed around seven years ago, before reopening as a Chinese restaurant in 2011.
But it was put up for sale again in October 2015, after which it was purchased by the church.
It is not the only Norwich pub that has undergone a transformation in the past few months.
The former Kings pub on King Street is due to reopen in October under the name the Last Pub Standing.