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BUSINESS MATTERS: Historic hostelry given fresh start

Manager James Dixon, left, and Bath Ales’ retail director Robin Couling at the Grapes

Manager James Dixon, left, and Bath Ales’ retail director Robin Couling at the Grapes

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Business Editor. Call me on 01865 425460

A HISTORIC Oxford pub has been snapped up by a small independent brewer, to the delight of real ale enthusiasts.

The Grapes, in George Street, the sole surviving Victorian pub in the city centre, was opened for business last night by new operator Bath Ales.

It is the company’s first venture outside the West Country, with its seven other hostelries in either Bath or Bristol.

Retail director Robin Couling said: “We’re growing bigger and thought that it was time to look further afield, and the opportunity arose. We try to position ourselves as a premium operator and customers identify with that.”

Mr Couling added that despite a series of closures in Oxford, there was still a demand from the public to eat and drink in pubs.

He said: “People may have cut down on holidays and big ticket purchases but for £20 they can enjoy some food and beer and have a decent evening.”

For the past eight years the Oxford City Council-owned pub was operated by Greene King which took over from former city brewery Morrells.

The lease was put on the market at the end of 2010, although it continued to trade. Bath Ales has invested an undisclosed sum in redecorating the interior, uncovering traditional tiles, refurbished the toilets and adding a new oak bar top.

The company, based in Warmley, between Bath and Bristol, was founded in 1995 and brews a range of beers which are now on sale at the Grapes, along with traditional pub food.

Eight jobs have been created at the pub, which is managed by James Dixon.

There has been an inn on the site since 1820 but it was completely rebuilt in the 1890s before undergoing a major refurbishment in 1969.

Tony Goulding, pubs officer of the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said: “This is a dream come true for beer drinkers in Oxford. Bath Ales is a welcome addition to Oxford’s pub scene and the Grapes now has a wonderful chance to flourish.”

Meanwhile, the Royal Oak in Witney Street, Burford, has reopened after an £80,000 refurbishment. The pub, run by the Wadworth Brewery, was closed for a month while major refurbishment was carried out to the bar and lounge areas.

Landlord Fiathra Hoey said: “The pub has become very busy, so the brewery decided to make the investment.

“The secret is to be polite to people. We also serve a lot of traditional pub food such as pies and roast dinners, so we have become a real locals’ establishment.”

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