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Big Society set to come to East Oxford
THE NAME has already got people talking.
But contrary to rumour, ‘the Big Society’ – soon to be launched on the site of a former pub and Chinese restaurant – is not the new Cowley Road headquarters of the Conservative Party.
It is in fact set to be both a pub and restaurant, but with a social club twist.
Work has already started to refurbish the former Lan Kwai Fong restaurant on the corner of Cowley Road and Jeune Street.
Lan Kwai Fong became a hit with students and parties because it was one of the few places in the city to offer karaoke.
It closed at the beginning of the month, but there was no indication of what would replace it until signs went up encouraging people to follow the new owners on Twitter.
The historic building was formerly home to the Elm Tree pub, which closed in 2008, for around 100 years.
The new owners, Matthew Davies and Tim Fitz-Gibbon ,already run two successfully venues in Jericho, Raoul’s Cocktail Bar, and the Victoria, in Walton Street.
Now they want to restore the original glory of the Grade II listed building.
Mr Fitz-Gibbon, who is also a director, admitted their work is definitely cut out for them.
He said: “We think there is a little bit of wood panelling left that we can salvage.
“There is a lot of work to be done.”
Mr Fitz-Gibbon said he did not want to reveal too much about the new venue, but that it would still serve food and drink.
But it is also hoped the venue will offer a range of community activities. A whole section of the Big Society will be offered out to “pop-up” businesses, for people struggling to afford rents or find a platform to launch their idea.
Mr Fitz-Gibbon said: “It can be for pop-up shops, people selling vintage clothes, handmade jewellery, anything.
“As long as they are not selling food or drink, we would like as many people as possible to get involved.
“If someone has got any craft home grown.”
So called pop-up and community ventures are already blossoming in East Oxford.
The Oxfork cafe, which started life as a pop-up restaurant and popped up everywhere from a basement to a boot factory, now resides permanently in Magdalen Road.
And the People’s Supermarket, which is run by local volunteers who work shifts in return for a 20 per cent discount on purchases, and is just yards away from the Big Society, is flourishing.
Mr Fitz-Gibbon said the name had caused some amusement locally.
He said: “In East Oxford, a predominantly left-wing area, I think the name has caused a lot of interest.
“Some people seem to think we are the new Tory HQ.
“We’re definitely not. I don’t want to say too much, but it is going to be very exciting.”
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