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Sheppey and Sittingbourne residents raise a glass to growing success of micro pubs, The Heritage and The Paper Mill

As traditional pubs close at an alarming rate of eight a day in London and the south east, it’s a different story for the micro pubs in Sittingbourne and in Sheppey where everyone engages the moment they walk in.

Running The Paper Mill, in Charlotte Street, Sittingbourne, is Marianne Melia and her son Harvey.

They’re not looking back. For them it’s the best business decision they could have made. The tills keep ringing.

Harvey Melia, left, and his mum Marianne Melia at The Paper Mill
Harvey Melia, left, and his mum Marianne Melia at The Paper Mill

Their average-size living room bar can accommodate up to 30 people and it’s the cosiness that’s a key factor in the pub’s popularity.

“When customers first came in last year they were intrigued by the smallness of the place,” said 23-year-old Harvey.

“No TV screen or music boxes, and no mobiles allowed to be switched on – just good conversation. Now they’re regulars and love it so much.

The Paper Mill, Charlotte Street, Sittingbourne
The Paper Mill, Charlotte Street, Sittingbourne

“Everyone talks to each other because the room is small and cosy, they have to face each other.”

Harvey’s experience is supported by Camra who say micro pubs are enjoying boom growth, where in London and the south east they’ve shot up from 44 to 52 so far this year, an 18% rise.

All a far cry from the decline of traditional pubs rapidly metamorphosing into mini supermarkets, restaurants and estate agency offices.

The Heritage in Halfway
The Heritage in Halfway

Kae Mendham, regional director for Camra, said: “The micro pubs’ success is largely due to their ethos.

“They’re particularly attractive to single women and men – they’re not isolated as a single person.

“Micro pubs treat you as a new and welcome friend. They’re very much a growing trend whereas the big pubs that closed had to some extent lost that customer feel.”

Over at The Heritage punters can’t get enough of the place, run by former policeman Melvin Hopper, 59, and wife Margaret, 58, a retired teacher.

Melvin and Margaret Hopper at The Heritage in Halfway
Melvin and Margaret Hopper at The Heritage in Halfway

It’s been seven months since they started operating, on the site of the old post office in Halfway.

They can seat 28 inside with at least another 12 standing.

“In the seven months we’ve been open we’ve served up 137 different ales, mostly from Kent,” says Melvin.

“Good conversation is what our place is all about – we don’t have music, there are no gaming machines, no TV, no food, and no spirits. Also mobiles are out, except texting.

“A lot of new friendships have been made between my clients. We’re doing very well, having a loyal and diverse clientele of 60 regular customers – our reputation is all by word of mouth.”

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