A pub which has been shut since the start of the second lockdown will reopen next week following a months-long refurbishment.
The New Chimneys on Godinton Park in Ashford has been taken over by Dean Pryce, who is getting a helping hand from pub operator Punch as it pays to revamp the building.
It is set to open next Thursday (June 10) and Mr Pryce says he wants to create the “best pub in Ashford”.
“I was looking for a pub for many years but none jumped out at me,” he said.
“Then New Chimneys became available, Covid happened and I thought it was one of the best times to take on a pub – they’ll have a bit of a renaissance, with people wanting to come and get to know new people and meet up with friends they haven’t seen.
“The pub has massive potential and when I heard the brewery wanted to invest in the pub as well, then I jumped on board."
Ashford born-and-bred Mr Pryce brings 22 years of experience in the world of restaurants with him.
Having started his career as a table cleaner in the Eureka Park Pizza Hut, this time last year he was an operations manager for 12 restaurants.
His knowledge will be a massive boost to the New Chimneys as its food previously had mixed reviews and scored a one-star food hygiene rating in September 2019.
With a new menu and kitchen, as well as 17 new staff members, the business looks set to improve on that score.
Mr Pryce, 38, said: “We really want to make it the pub that the community deserves and turn it back into a real local.
“We’ve done an extensive refurb, with a brand-new kitchen going in and brand-new toilets – the last ones had been untouched for many years, so those are really important – and a new, wider range of drinks.”
'We’ll cater for any and all occasions – from red-letter days to football'
Another feature being added to the pub are 10 screens for sports, which will be a big departure from the pub’s previous format.
The dad-of-two remarked: “I can’t remember the last time there was sport in this pub, but we’re going quite hard on them.
“We’ve got a new soft lounge area with sofas and soft furniture for a more relaxed drinking experience without it being a complete sports pub.
“We’re trying to appeal to all demographics without isolating any, so we’ll have sports on and also a relaxed area which won’t interfere with one another.”
The introduction of sports is sure to bring in punters early, as Euro 2020 begins the day after the planned opening date.
Mr Pryce said: “It’s definitely going to be full throttle from day one.”
News of the reopening and refurbishment has been met with widespread excitement from nearby residents, with Mr Pryce saying: “The people around here have been amazing, the welcoming I’ve had has been phenomenal.
“People have been coming to the front and having a chat with me about how excited they are and saying they’ll back us all the way.
'I can’t remember the last time there was sport in this pub...'
“Even on the school run to Repton Manor, there’s a real buzz.
“I definitely didn’t expect the response we’ve been getting on social media, but it’s just making us push ourselves to deliver what people are expecting.”
Mr Pryce is inviting everyone to “come down and see the difference, we want to be a pub of the community and get involved with all the things we can get involved in”.
He added: “We’ll cater for any and all occasions – from red-letter days to football – and we really want to try to adapt to the community.”
The New Chimneys – which was previously owned by Costas Constanti – will be open from 9am Monday to Saturday and from 10am on Sundays.
Brunch will be served from 10am, with food available between 10am and 9pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 9pm on Sundays.
The Loudon Way site features a mezzanine on the first floor that caters for private functions with up to 100 guests.
For more information, click here or call 01233 878413.