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What does future hold for historic Canterbury pubs?

Two historic city pubs just 160 metres away from each other still sit empty as the hunt for new people to run the sites continues.

A £425,000 price tag has been slapped on the freehold for the Two Doves in Nunnery Fields, Canterbury, by agents from Ashford-based Sibley Pares.

The Two Doves in Nunnery Fields (47666757)
The Two Doves in Nunnery Fields (47666757)

Meanwhile, up the road in Oaten Hill, the Cross Keys remains boarded up as owner Star Pubs and Bars’ search for a new operator enters its seventh month.

The Two Doves has remained shut since 2019, when the owners of the site launched a failed bid to convert the old alehouse into two homes.

Canterbury City Council snubbed the scheme – but now Sibley Pares is advertising the building, and says the site has the potential for alternative uses.

Advertising material states: “The property dates approximately from the mid-19th century.

“It is in a popular Canterbury location (and has the) potential for alternative uses, subject to planning.”

The Cross Keys in Oaten Hill, Canterbury, is still boarded up
The Cross Keys in Oaten Hill, Canterbury, is still boarded up

Papers submitted to the city council two years ago revealed the Two Doves’ trading loss of £740 in 2013 rose to more than £9,100 in 2017.

At the time, the developers blamed this on the pub’s “small, cramped nature” and “inability to develop to provide a food offer owing to its small size”.

In planning documents, they added: “Over a period of nine months, it failed to find a purchaser with only five enquiries, two viewings and no offers being made to run the site as a public house.

“It is clear that the days of the property as a public house are over – it is too small to sustain itself financially, it cannot expand to improve its offer and it faces a considerable amount of competition in the area.”

And Star Pubs says it is now in discussion with a number of people interested in taking on the 18th-century Cross Keys.

A CGI of the proposed Cross Keys makeover
A CGI of the proposed Cross Keys makeover

KentOnline revealed in February that the firm is planning a £300,000 transformation to turn it into a “modern and quirky” inn.

A spokeswoman for the firm says a 20ft-deep shaft, which collapsed in the men’s toilets, has now been filled, but it is waiting until a new licensee comes on board before beginning the rest of the work.

She added: “We’ve been actively seeking a new operator since November, but the pandemic has delayed our progress on recruitment, as you would expect.

“We are looking to recruit a new operator to support our plans for a major refurbishment to transform it into a community local offering a warm atmosphere, excellent food and affordable drinks.

“We’re currently in talks with a number of interested parties about taking it on.”

The pub has an annual rent of almost £49,000 and an estimated operating profit of close to £52,000 a year.

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