There were a lot of happy faces at the end of the second week in October. The New Inn in Halse had opened its doors. The community pub project had got past its first hurdle and the pub itself was ready for all to enjoy, after five weeks of renovation work and planning which at weekends saw up to 50 volunteers lending their time and handyman skills to the project. It was stage one completed.
The longer-term vision for the New Inn however has always been much more than just a place to eat and drink. So over the next weeks and months and right through to next Easter and beyond the project will be going through the next stages, designed to follow the direction which came out clearly from the results of the local survey of residents which sought to find out what they wanted from a community pub. The appearance of scaffolding outside the New Inn in the days after the opening was possibly the clearest indication that there was still lots to do. The oldest part of the roof needed re roofing while other parts badly needed renovating and replacing in a major project.
The next stage of moving the New Inn to a commercially viable yet community-benefiting concept is the focus on the refurbishment of the five bedrooms in the building -and the manager’s accommodation. It is after all an inn and recently the number of rooms available to let out as accommodation has been limited often just to two rooms. It isn’t going just to be a question of redecorating the rooms to a high standard. All five rooms will have an en-suite and detailed work has gone into to finding ways to reduce the noise levels between the rooms and the working pub below. The target is to get four of the five rooms available for guests before Christmas. The fifth room and the managers flat will follow soon after. There is also a separate holiday let which is accessible from outside the main pub building and the refurbishment plans for this are geared for it to be ready for guests in January.
It has always been understood that a community pub would offer more as wide as possible number of benefits to residents. One such facility which scored heavily in the summer survey in terms of the priority list was the need for a café for people who saw it as providing a different concept and facility to the pub. This is one of the tasks which will follow on from the accommodation refurbishment. The café, it is planned, will be part of the traditional skittle alley in the building which has always has been a well-used and popular facility at the New Inn and which itself needs a new roof and refurbishing.
Skittles will always be on offer at the New Inn but it is hoped that space for a café and meeting room with easy outside access can be found within the skittle alley area. The café will be again dependent on volunteers from the village when it come to running it but so far there has been no shortage of help and eager hands and the café will almost certainly have a separate appeal to younger members in the village. It is hoped that Easter is a sensible deadline to see a café up and running. There are other stages to some. The rear of the pub will need work done to redesign the garden layout and create extra and improved parking.
So, yes, there was genuine cause for celebration when the pub opened in October but that was just one stage of a number, which will be gone through to see the longer-term transformation of the New Inn into the completed definition of a community pub.