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A good pint and some proper conversation at The Paper Mill, Charlotte Street, Sittingbourne

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Drinkers enjoying a pint in the newly-opened Paper Mill micropub in Sittingbourne
Drinkers enjoying a pint in the newly-opened Paper Mill micropub in Sittingbourne

Anyone looking for a venue filled with fruit machines, loud music and TV sport will be sorely disappointed with the Paper Mill micropub.

All this converted builder’s merchants has to offer is real ales and proper conversation amid a cosy and traditional setting.

Harvey Melia is 23 which means he’s far too young to have tasted the original saloon bar atmosphere he’s now trying to recreate.

But he’s done his homework and he believes there’s a market for more civilised social networking.

He said: “I did some market research and found people were very much in favour of being able to go out and enjoy themselves without being subjected to noise.

“Now we’ve opened, I thought at first we might only appeal to real ale drinkers, but it’s attracted a wide range of people who are really enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.”

Harvey said the micropub is a family concern involving his parents Marianne and Simon.

Paper Mill owner Harvey Melia and his mum Marianne
Paper Mill owner Harvey Melia and his mum Marianne

It stands in the vicinity of the long-gone Sittingbourne Paper Mill – hence its name – and its large frosted windows hark back to an era when workers once swarmed to one of the town’s biggest employers.

“Everyone seems to have worked there or knows someone who worked there, but no one seems to have any solid mementos of the place,” Harvey said.

“It’s part of our history, so if anyone has any pictures or artefacts from the mill it would be nice to have them on display in the pub.”

Originally destined to be converted into two flats, Marianne secured planning permission to turn the former Thorley and Petherick building into a micropub.

Harvey lives upstairs while downstairs, tables and chairs are laid out in the style of a yesteryear snug.

He serves beers imported from micro-breweries all over Kent, and the current favourite, Goacher’s Real Mild Ale, is created at Goacher’s in Maidstone where dad Simon is head brewer.

With pubs seemingly in terminal decline and trade experts predicting 4,000 will close in Britain over the next year, it would appear there was never a worse time to be investing in the drinks business.

But Harvey said, with eight micropubs up and running in Thanet alone, the good-old British boozer is about to rise like a “phoenix from the flames”.

And miniature venues mean less of an outlay to the owners.

Harvey, who previously worked at the Shipwright’s Arms at Hollowshore, Faversham, said: “Big pubs bring massive bills and overheads.

“Also, running a micropub means you can choose how you run your own business and you don’t have to sell beers you don’t want to.”

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

This state of independence is good news for customers as the Paper Mill has beers for sale at an average £3 a pint which works out about 25% less than many bigger establishments.

The Paper Mill has already found favour with customers desperate to escape the “buzz” associated with “normal” pubs, as Harvey explained.

“At our place, you can sit next to someone you’ve never met before and end up having a lovely chat over a pint.

“It’s so refreshing to see people themselves without the need for outside entertainment.

“Last week, when the England game was on, we had a couple come in who told me they were put off going to their usual pub because it was really loud.

“So they came along and had a nice, peaceful time with us instead.”

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