It was tired and in need of some love – but now The Marmion Tavern is booming again after being given a fresh look.
The pub in Marmion Road, Southsea, has been given a £100,000 makeover.
The former separate bars have been knocked through and the bar has been extended.
It’s been given a fresh coat of paint and the interior has been brought up to date.
But it’s still a place that’s proud of its roots – pictures of Southsea and the pub when it was called The Lord Napier are dotted about.
The man in charge of the pumps is Matt Chapman, former manager of The Festing in Festing Road, Southsea.
He reopened the pub on Monday after holding private dos for local traders on Sunday and family and friends two days before.
Matt, 30, said: ‘We have completely changed the look of the pub.
‘If anyone knew it from before, it was very much a traditional pub but lacking some love, and what we wanted to do was give it some of that.
‘We have really brightened it up.
‘We still want to be a pub with our regulars, but we also want to offer some amazing food.
‘The response so far has been superb. Marmion Road has quite a family feel to it.
‘I’ve loved meeting a lot of the shop owners.
‘It’s been nice to have a chat with them to see if we can strike up some things which would work for both businesses.’
Charity-minded Matt helped to raise around £20,000 for The Tom Prince Cancer Trust while at The Festing, and he hopes to emulate that success at The Marmion Tavern.
He hopes to set up a bike ride from Buckingham Palace back to the pub that will raise even more for the worthy cause.
‘A lot of regulars have come down to see me from The Festing and their response has been very good as well,’ Matt said.
‘The people of Portsmouth seem to be a generous group, especially when it comes to The Tom Prince Cancer Trust.
‘It’s sort of like a city charity.
‘Everyone supports it and I don’t see it being any different at this pub in terms of raising money.’
Three real ales are on tap – London Pride, Doom Bar, from Sharp’s Brewery, in Rock, Cornwall and Jail Ale, from Dartmoor Brewery, in Devon.
There’s a vacant guest ale pump which Matt hopes will be taken up by a local brewer.
And Matt is a big music fan and hopes to set up some acoustic nights.
‘I want to do some music here and build on the entertainment, but in keeping with The Marmion,’ he said.
Matt has years of experience dealing with customers.
He’s been involved in catering since he was 16 and ran The Festing for four and a half years prior to starting life at The Marmion Tavern.
He prefers not to dwell on the past and is focused on making his latest venture a huge success.
He left The Festing at the end of October last year and took some time off before getting back into the trade.
‘I had a couple of months off and I missed, in all fairness, the unsocial hours,’ he said.
‘I missed the interaction and meeting new people and now I’ve set myself a new challenge.
‘I made some great friends at The Festing and I will do exactly the same here.
‘It’s a social thing as well as work.
‘I can have a great time.
‘I’ve always had a good relationship with staff.’
Matt is feeling optimistic about the future of the pub trade, and says there’ll be a point when Southsea venues stop closing and the remaining ones will stand strong.
‘There will be a point when everyone will realise what is happening and there will be enough businesses which will get the trade they need to stay open.
‘There is so much going on and new businesses are opening all the time.
‘Castle Road is growing and we have got facilities in Elm Grove that are doing pretty well.
‘It seems like there is a completely different group of people here to at The Festing, even though both pubs are in Southsea.
‘We’re like one massive family here.’
The News launched our Love Your Local campaign to celebrate all that is good about local community pubs.
We believe they are an essential hub for residents and that communities suffer when they shut down.
We want you to tell us what’s great about your local. Let us know and we will feature the best ones in The News.
We will be urging people to support community pubs and we’ll be reporting on events and activities to show how you can help.
And we’re calling on councils to adopt policies that protect local pubs.
If you love your local, contact reporter Miles O’Leary on (023) 9262 2169 or email email@example.com