Fresh start for Southsea's The Victory pub as new owner takes over
It has been empty for nearly two years, but last weekend The Victory pub was packed out again for its grand reopening.
Once a firm favourite with Portsmouth punters, the pub was closed after two serious violent incidents forced the city council to revoke its licence.
But after being taken over by local businessman Gael Evans, the plan is to relaunch the venue as a family-friendly establishment with something for all ages to enjoy.
Manager Leanne Strong said: ‘We chose The Victory because of the location. There are a lot of pubs shutting down at the moment and we don’t like to see that happening.
‘It took us about two weeks to get the pub ready and get the right look in place. There’s a completely new decor.
‘We wanted to be attractive to students and the foreign market, you get a lot of people come over here from abroad.’
Gael and Leanne are no strangers to the city’s pub trade, having taken over The Royal in Commercial Road and The Blue Anchor in North End in the past two years.
Following on from the opening weekend, pub regulars can expect more live music as well as regular karaoke events.
There are also plans to introduce a student night to bring in more younger customers.
Leanne, 22, added: ‘Our opening night was really busy. People have said how nice the place looks, the reaction has been really positive.
‘They have also said that we are the only pub in the area to do live music, and they want to see it more often.’
Owner Gael was originally born in Portchester. After years spent living around the country, he returned to the city to take over the three pubs.
The 58-year-old said: ‘There has been a big call for a place like this.
‘It was a good opportunity to own somewhere in a plum location.’
‘We want to run this place like the others, as a family unit.
‘The feedback from customers has been very good. They are pleased to see this place reopened.
‘It looks nothing like it did before, and we’re aiming to appeal to a younger generation as well.’
The pub, in The Hard, was originally closed in July 2015, after concerns about violent incidents, fire safety and its ownership.
But with the pub’s relaunch behind them, the pair are hoping to give the pub a fresh reputation going forward.
Leanne, from Fratton, said: ‘Our staff all have individual personalities and we find that does work.
‘If everyone is the same and talking about the same things, we find it doesn’t work as well with customers.’