Hitchin's Radcliffe Arms reopens with roaring trade

PUBLISHED: 13:51 27 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:59 31 October 2017

Free pizza being served up for every punter on the opening night for the new look Radcliffe Arms. Picture: Danny Loo

Free pizza being served up for every punter on the opening night for the new look Radcliffe Arms. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Hitchin's Radcliffe Arms pub reopened to punters last night - and with the offer of free pizza for all comers, the place was crammed full.

Free pizza being served up for every punter on the opening night for the new look Radcliffe Arms. Picture: Danny LooFree pizza being served up for every punter on the opening night for the new look Radcliffe Arms. Picture: Danny Loo

The pub, on the corner of Walsworth Road and Verulam Road, closed last Christmas after 149 years of serving food and drink – but has now reopened as part of the Charles Wells brewery’s Pizza, Pots and Pints brand.

The bold new green-and-red exterior paint job has divided public opinion, but dozens were queuing up outside for the 5pm opening time – and by 7pm the place was heaving with trade.

Pizza, Pots and Pints veteran Sam Adams is heading up the launch of the new-look Radcliffe Arms, having overseen the seven-week transformation leading up to last night.

Sam said: “It’s been a journey and it’s been great that we’ve had a lot of support from Hitchin itself.

The pizza oven in action on a busy opening night for the new look Radcliffe Arms. Picture: Danny LooThe pizza oven in action on a busy opening night for the new look Radcliffe Arms. Picture: Danny Loo

“A few have been not so supportive due to the new colour scheme, but I think the inside and the atmosphere that we’re going to offer to everybody is going to win them back – great food, great beer, great pub.”

The layout of the pub has changed considerably – with the bar, previously in the middle, now slightly to the left as customers enter from Walsworth Road.

On the right is the new pizza oven – expected to become one of the revamped pub’s chief attractions – beside which they were queuing up for food.

Asked what set The Radcliffe Arms apart, Sam cited the pub’s social media following and the fact that so many people were “interested at first go”, as well as the “great location” near the railway station.

Décor in the pub includes pictures screwed to the walls at jaunty angles and two depictions of famous people called Radcliffe for customers to find.

Those on hand to sample the new experience yesterday included Councillor Judi Billing, who expressed delight at the evident success and buzzing atmosphere on its reopening night and called it “marvellous”.

The Radcliffe Arms is the fourth location in the Pizza, Pots and Pints chain, which also includes The Old White Horse in Baldock’s Station Road.

The Charles Wells brewery announced its intent in July to recoup the cost of revamping The Radcliffe Arms by selling part of the garden off Verulam Road – previously a car park – for development.

Plans submitted to build two houses on part of the garden at The Radcliffe Arms. Picture: AT4 Architects LtdPlans submitted to build two houses on part of the garden at The Radcliffe Arms. Picture: AT4 Architects Ltd

A planning application from Charles Wells to build two four-bed semi-detached homes on the site is under consideration by North Herts District Council planning officers.

In a statement to district council case officer Tom Rea in August, Pizza, Pots and Pints director Craig Mayes said the plan was to invest about £250,000 into the pub but that this needed to be supported by the sale of the houses.

Without this, he said, the return on investment for Charles Wells – which sold Charlton’s Windmill pub – would be undermined “to a point where the business is borderline sustainable”.

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