Pub's new tenant vows to 'appeal to everyone' following controversy
PUBLISHED: 08:49 28 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:52 28 August 2019
Copyright: Archant 2019
"The whole idea is to lift the pub to another level."
That is the pledge from Nigel Barton, who took over at The Bull in Dereham earlier this year.
The High Street pub became embroiled in controversy last year, when former manager Vicky Evans-Melo was told by Greene King she would be moved after more than 10 years in charge.
The brewery's treatment of Ms Evans-Melo sparked a fierce community backlash, but Greene King said the decision to adopt a tenanted model had already been made.
Having been under temporary management for several months, the pub was under threat of closure until Mr Barton - a former accountant - threw his hat into the ring.
And the 67-year-old, who has lived in the Dereham area for three decades, is keen to make an impression in one of his old watering holes.
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"What sparked this was discovering the pub might close if a new tenant wasn't found," said Mr Barton. "The temporary management wasn't doing it any good and it needed a new lease of life.
"The main change I've made is to bring in a chef with years of experience and all our meals are created in-house. All the food is bought locally from businesses in the town and that is something people really appreciate.
"Too many pubs offer the same food and seem focused on doing a similar thing to Wetherspoons - that was the situation when I first arrived so we've got a whole new menu."
Five months after his tenancy began, Mr Barton has "nearly doubled" the wage bill in a bid to prevent long waits for food and drink - the "biggest problem" when he arrived.
Having also introduced live music, a new wine menu and live sport, he is brutally honest about the way he operates.
"I tend not to look at what other people are doing and instead focus on what I want," he added.
"We want to provide a balance in terms of what we're good at, rather than specialise in anything. There's no reason why we can't appeal to everyone
"We want people to come in for different reasons, whether it's a family outing or group get-together. This is somewhere with good quality food, a nice atmosphere and good staff behind the bar - it's that simple."