New-look Portsmouth pub on mission to turn around North End’s fortunes

From left, Lena Garner, 22, Georgia Hutton, 26, Jennifer O'Brien, 24,  Daniel O'Brien, 28, James Russell, 28, Maria Arnett, 27, and Cynthia Ikkerte, 23 Picture: Malcolm Wells (151125-1501)
From left, Lena Garner, 22, Georgia Hutton, 26, Jennifer O'Brien, 24, Daniel O'Brien, 28, James Russell, 28, Maria Arnett, 27, and Cynthia Ikkerte, 23 Picture: Malcolm Wells (151125-1501)
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Its future was looking uncertain – but now thanks to a lot of hard work and care life is on the up.

The former Lanyard bar in North End, Portsmouth, closed earlier this month.

The Grapes in London Road, North End, Portsmouth ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (151125-1507)

The Grapes in London Road, North End, Portsmouth ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (151125-1507)

It was the latest in a number of businesses in the struggling city shopping district to close.

But the pub was snapped up by a fresh-thinking company keen to see its fortunes turned around.

Now the venue – formerly North End Baptist Church – has been transformed and renamed The Grapes in a bid to freshen things up.

And the focus is on pulling in people from North End who wouldn’t normally stay in the area to drink – who might otherwise seek some fun in Gunwharf Quays or Old Portsmouth instead.

Maria Arnett is the new manager and she can’t wait to see how things go.

She said: ‘The clientele we are going for are the people who wouldn’t normally go to North End and instead just go to places like Tiger Tiger and Old Portsmouth.

‘I live in North End, and there are people with nice cars and nice properties, yet those people evidentially are not drinking in North End.

‘So we want to be a bar that sells a variety of cocktails, wines and coffees.’

Maria said the bar is pursuing the idea of selling Starbucks coffees in a bid to attract more visitors.

Inside, new carpets, booths, sofas, railings and tiling around the bar have been fitted. There’s a new snug area and it is hoped a VIP area can be put in where punters can enjoy a bit to eat and have a beer while watching sports.

Maria said she hopes the improvements will spur on the wider regeneration of North End.

City leaders have already held talks with traders in a bid to come up with a plan to save the area from falling into further decline.

Shops have already warned the area could become virtually extinct by the end of the decade if drastic improvements are not made.

Maria said: ‘This is an opportunity for people to go somewhere closer to home.

‘It’s local, and at the same time there’s a rejuvenation plan being worked on by the council, it is trying to make North End a bit more appealing to shoppers.

‘At the moment, a lot of the area is shut down and a lot of the businesses have shut down.

‘There are a lot of low-end shops.

‘If we can show that North End can be nice, then it will to improve the community as a whole.’

OWNERS’ PLANS

THE new owners of the former Lanyard pub say it was the ‘perfect opportunity’ to transform a business.

The North End venue is now operated by Grapes of Portsmouth Limited, spearheaded by managing director Daniel O’Brien and operations director Georgia Hutton.

Daniel, 28, has worked in the pub trade since he was 17 and has also set up his own firm specialising in cleaning and security work.

Daniel recruited new manager Maria Arnett given the experience she picked up working as the assistant manager of The Slug and Lettuce, in Palmerston Road, Southsea.

Talking about why he wanted to take over the Lanyard, Daniel said: ‘The building is stunning.

‘At the moment, the area is in decline and we have seen some big brands leave.

‘We want to be upmarket but affordable at the same time.

‘Everyone likes to be able to and sit somewhere where they think, “this is really nice and friendly”, and then when the bill comes it’s like Wetherspoon prices.

‘If we can blend a bit of luxury with affordable spending, then that would be great.’

Daniel is looking forward to seeing what the future brings – and hopes to work with venues on deals to boost trade. One idea is linking up with Andicars to take customers down to Gunwharf after. Daniel said: ‘We want to be a focal point for the rest of the street.

‘It was the perfect opportunity.

‘We are hoping to be big on food, and we want this to be the place where people go before a night out.’