'They thought I was crazy' - New owner's lockdown pub success
- Credit: James Neale
A business owner said he was called “crazy” for taking over a pub during the pandemic, but after giving the site a new lease of life it is going better than he ever expected.
Despite a challenging start to the business after another lockdown, a flood and current coronavirus restrictions, James Neale, the new owner of The White Horse pub, in South Lopham, said the relaunch of the business has been "brilliant".
The village pub was closed by its former owners in March 2020 with no plans to reopen, but Mr Neale, a photographer and Norwich salon owner, decided to take on the challenge and opened the business for the first time briefly in December.
As the third national lockdown hit, Mr Neale continued to renovate the site, including the build of a new outdoor seating area and Tiki bar and on April 12 punters were excited to return - albeit sitting outside.
Mr Neale said he was looking forward to Monday, May 17, which will allow customers to relax inside.
The 35-year-old said: “It has been a big learning curve but I have really enjoyed it.
“I never saw it as a problem not having the experience in the pub game. I saw it as an opportunity. I just asked myself, 'what would I want if I was going to a pub?' which is good service, good food and a good atmosphere.
“Since the reopening in April it has it has been challenging with the restrictions outside, because of weather. But luckily in the first two weeks the sun shone and the pub had record sales.
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"The feedback has been awesome and people have loved but it's not just the youngsters, it's all generations."
Moving into the summer, Mr Neale said he was looking to hold live music events, everything from an "Elvis tribute to an Ibiza DJ set".
“A lot of people thought I was crazy taking on a pub in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “But at some point, things were going to get better.
“The local support has been incredible. The numbers that we have been taking is perfect, even better than expected and after Monday it’s only going to get busier."