A community owned pub is hoping to welcome back some of the people who saved it as they celebrate the end of lockdown on Saturday.
The historic White Hart, Alton, will reopen again at mid-day on 4 July with new rules in place to protect customers and staff.
The White Hart, which dates back to the 19th Century, was saved from the threat of closure when more than 70 local residents came together to purchase the High Street pub and neighbouring allotments.
Now the White Hart Community Interest Company (CIC) Is determined the oldest pub in Alton will bounce back strongly following the coronavirus lockdown.
“A lot of hard work has been done in recent weeks to ensure the pub is ready for the lifting of lockdown and Saturday cannot come soon enough,” said Tom Wilkinson, the CIC Chair.
“All six of our pub staff have been brought back from furlough and we are raring to go. We’re hoping to welcome back a good number of our shareholders amongst our customers on Saturday.”
Tom said changes included screens on the bar, larger spaces between tables and hand-stations around the pub. Staff have been provided with facemasks.
“It will be table service only for customers inside the White Hart and we have also bought new card payment machines that people can use at their tables,” added Tom.
“We’re very fortunate in that we have also got a spacious outdoor seating area and that almost doubles the space available.”
A popular feature at the White Hart is Benny’s Thai, an independent authentic Asian restaurant with fresh cooked food. Benny and her team will also be back from Monday, 6 July but will be operating as a takeaway only, rather than the previous buffet service.
Benny’s will open on Monday to Saturday evenings, an increase on the previous three-nights a week opening. White Hart customers can order a meal and eat it at their table or take it away with them.
The White Hart also has three B&B rooms and plans have been made to open them again on 1 August.
The High Street hostelry was bought by villagers after Tom, who lives and runs a business in the village, worked with allotment chairman John Moorhouse to construct a bid for the White Hart.
Explained Tom: “In 2014, Marstons put the White Hart up for sale and there was serious interest from an organisation that planned to turn it into flats. Closure would have been a huge loss to the village and we were determined to save both the pub and the 20 village allotments, located at the rear.”
The CIC ultimately purchased the pub and land for £270,000. They have since embarked on an improvement programme, including recent work to restore the pub bar to its original central position in the pub and the refurbishment of the B&B rooms.
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