The smell of fresh paint still lingers in The Portcullis, a historic pub that has recently reopened following a major transformation.
“It’s a lot better isn’t it?” says one man to another at the bar, sipping his pint with a nod of approval at the newly polished bar top.
“You can say that again,” agrees his companion. “It’s like a proper pub again.”
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It may be freshly scrubbed but The Portcullis has been part of the fabric of Staple Hill for some 250 years and its revival as a place at the heart of the community is a welcome one after a period of uncertainty, in which it was managed on a temporary basis.
National pub operator Hawthorne Leisure has taken on the premises and poured £185,000 into the makeover, which includes new toilets and a fully refurbished skittles alley.
Debra Tipper, who has more than 20 years’ experience managing pubs in and around Bristol, including The Swan in Winterbourne and the Cross Keys in Hanham, has taken over the reins and is already a steady presence behind the bar.
On a recent cold Thursday lunchtime, the pub provides a warm refuge for a scattering of locals. Popping in for a lunchtime pint, they gather at the bar and fire questions at Debra about upcoming sports and events.
Framed black and white photos of Fishponds, Downend and Staple Hill depict a bygone era, long before the crossroads on which the pub stands were busy with constant traffic.
Food won’t be served in the pub until March 2020, but there are crisps aplenty and the bar’s well stocked. There’s also a gym and martial arts classes taking place in the upstairs of the building and Debra has plans to reignite live music nights for which the pub was once famed.
A man who had been quietly reading his paper in the far corner places his empty pint glass on the bar as he heads out into the cold afternoon air.
“Cheers love,” calls the landlady.
“See you love,” comes the reply.
It’s a familiar exchange that takes place countless times a day in this community pub that has gained a new lease of life.
The Portcullis, 130 High Street, Staple Hill, Bristol, BS16 5HH
0117 907 7302
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