Published: 00:01, 20 January 2019
Customers fear a major refurbishment could spoil the traditional feel of a 259-year-old pub.
The Royal Naval Reserve has stood in Whitstable High Street since 1760.
But last Sunday, it closed its doors and is expected to stay shut until March while owner Shepherd Neame gives the building a £250,000 revamp.
Now some punters are worried the historic ale house - hailed as “one of Whitstable’s most inviting, homely pubs” - will lose its down-to-earth charm.
Jan Wake-Modell, who lives nearby and regards the Naval as her local, said: “Such a shame. It’s a proper pub and all human life is there. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s a locals’ pub that will be turned into yet another identikit format. Yes, it’s old and tatty, but that’s why we love it. The landlord is great and will be missed.”
Many other punters have expressed dismay at the news.
The pub was taken on by experienced landlord Christian Diamant two years ago. He credits its success with a focus on “old school” qualities - traditional food, ales, pub quizzes and a homely interior complete with naval memorabilia.
Christian said: “I love it - it’s a good example of a good, honest town centre pub.
“I took over when it was suffering and I turned it around. I brought it back to its roots - the history of the pub is very important. A lot of people in Whitstable like the Royal Naval Reserve - it’s well-respected.
“It’s great for food in the day, drinks in the evening. We’re not a gastropub - we serve great-quality pub grub. Home-made ham and chips, roasts, steak and ale pie, fish and chips.”
But Christian is not sure if he will want to take on the Naval again after its overhaul.
“The refurb is a Shepherd Neame decision,” he said. “The previous landlord was here for so long, so the pub hasn’t had anything doing to it internally or externally for 25 to 30 years.
“I want to stay, but I don’t know if I will,” he said. “I just have to work out if it’s a pub I want to go back to or not.”
In the meantime, Christian is taking over the Blean Tavern in Blean, which is set to reopen on January 23. His current chef will be going with him, and will continue to serve favourites from the Royal Naval Reserve’s menu.
Shepherd Neame says: “The development scheme will be conducted in a sympathetic manner, paying attention to the history of the building and incorporating the pub’s unique features into the new design.
“The refurbished pub will include an upgraded feature bar servery and relaxed drinking area, a separate mezzanine style restaurant for approximately 30 covers and a good sized fully equipped trade kitchen to the rear of the site.
“The Royal Naval will claim fresh kerb appeal with an external redecoration and new signage and lighting to the front of the building.
"To the back, you will find a covered smoking area and a courtyard style garden with garden furniture, lighting and heating.”