New owner to breathe life back into pub

THE new owner of the last pub in a Suffolk town says she wants to put it at the heart of the village and make it suitable “for everybody”.

Eye once boasted 22 pubs but now has just one - the Queen’s Head, in Cross Street, which its owner says has not always had the best reputation in the past.

But a new era is beckoning after Tessa Prior exchanged contracts with Enterprise Inns on Christmas Eve.

Although intending to keep the Queen’s Head as a pub for drinking rather than food, Mrs Prior, who has lived near Eye for 30 years, is planning to close the site on February 1 for between four to six weeks to redecorate and breathe new life into the listed property.

She said: “It’s a departure from what I normally do. It’s such a lovely building and the last pub in Eye but it’s so tired and dirty and run down.

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“It needs a bit of TLC - that’s my plan, to close it and completely decorate it and clean it up.

“It’s home-from-home for some people but others just hate it because it’s got a legend of being hostile and not a place to go, but as the last pub in town it has to be for everybody.”

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Mrs Prior runs a food business in Suffolk and also co-owns a safari lodge in Zambia.

Waterberry Lodge is on the banks of the Zambezi, near Victoria Falls, and Mrs Prior said her experience in the hospitality trade through the African venture would stand her in good stead when she takes over the pub.

She said: “One of the things I have noticed is an enormous amount of enthusiasm in the town - everybody seems prepared to help.

“Eye is also a tourist destination for visitors to mid Suffolk and tourists like to go to pubs and have a drink and a bite to eat.”

As a medieval market town surrounded by villages, at one point Eye was home to 22 drinking establishments.

In the mid-19th Century it still had 14 public and five beer houses, but by the outbreak of the Second World War that number had dropped to just 11, with the Red Lion, the last to close, pouring its last pint a decade ago.

And even the Queen’s Head has been in difficulties recently, closing for several weeks in 2009.

But as she aims to turn around its fortunes, Mrs Prior said she would be employing a new landlord to run the pub, which will be stocking beer made by Suffolk brewers Adnams.

She also explained that light lunches would be prepared once the kitchen is sorted out but that the pub would be keeping its pool table and would not be turned into a restaurant, as had been suggested.

She added: “There’s a rumour that it’s going to be turned into a restaurant and the pool table will be thrown out but I can squash that rumour.

“There is demand for lunches and we will do soups and sandwiches - I would really like to use food from the local suppliers. We have a great butchers, bakery and deli in the town.

“I want to make it right for all customers.”

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