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Quartet takes over Mellis Railway Tavern to prove a point

Four men, unimpressed with the services of their local watering hole, have decided to take over a Mellis pub each Monday in February to prove a point.

It is the general UK pub culture of sticky carpets, random opening hours and pints filled to the brim, with half of it landing on someone’s T-shirt, that prompted Nigel France, Steven Jacobs, Lawrence Hall and Lee Fitzgerald to take on the challenge – and show it could be done differently.

“I was very irritated, probably more than the others, about some pubs not being open on a remotely regular basis,” said Nigel France.

The Casque Separatists will be taking over the Mellis Railway Tavern once a week. Picture by Mark Bullimore.
The Casque Separatists will be taking over the Mellis Railway Tavern once a week. Picture by Mark Bullimore.

“Our view is that a public house in a village can offer better hours. It looks like that the independent, entrepreneurial publican opens and closes when he wants and makes a decision whether it is worth his while rather than improving the offer.”

He added: “Yet all the managed houses owned by the likes of JD Wetherspoon are always open.”

The friends, from Mellis, Gislingham and Palgrave, approached various pubs in the Diss Express area, with Frank Hill, landlord of the Mellis Tavern, deciding to let them have a shot.

The 55-year-old, who has been running the pub for eight years, said: “We were open seven days a week for two years and Monday nights were completely empty. People just didn’t seem interested in coming out.

“It’s a win-win situation for me. If it goes well, it puts the pub on the map and raises money for charity. If not, it proves my point that I was right in closing on a Monday.”

Inspired by the bar culture in Spain and Germany, the “well-intended, albeit slightly contentious” Casque Separatists promise a great atmosphere and service from 4pm until late.

They will also offer home-cooked meals for a fiver and complementary nibbles.

“You leave our island and you land in Europe – it’s a different planet. We haven’t got a continental bone in our body when it comes to social dining and drinking,” said Mr France.

The team, made up of businessmen, chefs and volunteers, has decided that all profits will go to the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (Each).

“We are just enthusiastic amateurs,” said Mr France.

“We are doing it for the pub, the village and obviously, as we are regulars, for ourselves.”

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