A FORMER Oxford United match-day pub could reopen if a viable business plan is presented, leaseholder Firoz Kassam says.
The Grade II-listed building near the Kassam Stadium, off Grenoble Road, has stood empty since its landlord claimed he was told to leave last June due to mounting debts.
But Mr Kassam, whose company Firoka has a lease on the property, told the Oxford Mail he was still “looking at options”.
He said: “I am looking at anything that will make the business stand up.
“At the moment its size and commercial viability make that difficult.
“There are no plans to change it. It is a pub, should be a pub and will be a pub. I have not got any other ideas.
“I am sure there will be a plan for it at some stage.”
The former Minchery Farmhouse is a listed building and is owned, along with the adjoining land, by Oxford City Council.
Firoka’s lease has about 50 years left to run.
Oxfordshire secretary for the Campaign for Real Ale Steve Lawrence said the pub would need to refresh its offerings if it was to reopen.
He said: “It is in an awkward position because it is known as a football pub.
“But the Priory is a one of the city’s more historic pubs, so we would like to see it thrive. To do that it would need to offer food and try and attract people not just from the football club but from the local area as well.
“With somebody who is enthusiastic and the right changes, it could be viable.
“Pubs like this can be turned around.”
City council board member for development Colin Cook said he welcomed the news, adding: “It seems more sensible to make use of it rather than having it sit empty.
“There are many things that can be done to make a pub more attractive to customers.
“And you also need to make sure landlords aren’t being charged silly amounts of money to run the place.
“The council recognises that some pubs are just not viable regardless of whatever you do, but with some it is possible and we’d like to see this one running again.”
Mark Sennet, chairman of OxVox, part of Oxford United fan group the Yellow Army, said: “It was a very popular venue on match days. We are in the process of doing a survey of fans to see if they want it reopened.
“Fans go to a number of other places now, including the club bar which is always packed.
“But we are keen to see it reopen, it is very sad to see it run-down and vandalised.”