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The pub that is adapting to a brighter future

East Harling, Norfolk. Sue Butler has taken a 10 year lease of the George and Dragon pub in East Harling and set-up a new Cafe to bring in more custom.

East Harling, Norfolk. Sue Butler has taken a 10 year lease of the George and Dragon pub in East Harling and set-up a new Cafe to bring in more custom.

It is 11.45am on a Wednesday and the George and Dragon pub is busy, mostly with women, sitting down to tea, coffee and cake.

On another day in the week, parents visit with their toddlers for a ‘creative crafts’ session.

These are just two of the ways this East Harling hostelry is trying to make the pub trade work in the 21st Century.

And Sue Butler, the landlady, is confident. She has just signed a ten-year lease at the Market Street pub.

“We have to be all things to all people,” she said.

“A lot of people do not want to come into a pub if it just serves alcohol.”

The cafe opens at 7.30am for breakfast, to catch the morning rush, and by early evening, the premises turns back into a traditional pub.

Women are a key target market, and with the cafe attracting more of them in the day, Ms Butler says they are more likely to visit in the evening, sometimes, by themselves.

Rents, rates and other overheads still have to be paid, so the aim of the pub is to maximise its trading hours.

The pub serves food so other innovative ideas include an outside catering service to shooting parties, and to the growing market in the so-called A11 corridor, with areas around Snetterton earmarked for the development of industrial and commercial units.

Coupled with the forthcoming log cabin holiday site at the nearby Thorpe Woodlands, other holiday campsites nearby and the whisky distillery at Roudham, among other attractions, Ms Butler sees the pub, which also offers accommodation, as well placed for the next ten years to take advantage of this market.

Ms Butler said: “If you commit to running a pub in a village, you have to be part of the village.
“We have to open our doors for longer and we have to offer more services.”

Ms Butler said she even considered taking over the village post office service, which is currently up for sale, but floor space in the pub did not allow for it.

The pub was reopened in 2011 by Chris and Morag Burnard, with Ms Butler installed as pub manager. Mr and Mrs Burnard still own the freehold, but Ms Butler is now the leaseholder.

 

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