DRINKERS looking for something new will be spoilt for choice in York over the next week or so.
Not one, not two, but three city-centre pubs are throwing open their doors again, after lengthy and expensive refurbishments.
The Gillygate reopens today, the Old White Swan in Goodramgate will follow on Thursday, and the Judges Lodgings will follow suit five days after that, on July 1.
Between them, the three refurbishments have cost around £3 million, so punters will be keen to see whether it has been money well spent.
Staff at The Gillygate gave a sneak preview of their £500,000 refurbishment on Thursday evening, including to the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of York, and the transformation is striking.
The pub has been completely redecorated inside and out, new floors have been added, the garden has been redesigned and the lettings rooms have been fully refurbished.
Licensee Brian Furey says the pub had begun to look tired and says he is confident it can now appeal to more people, particularly local residents in and around Gillygate.
Brian, who has run pubs in Ireland and Paris as well as York, said: “I’ve been looking for the perfect pub business to run as my own and when the Gillygate came available I jumped at the opportunity. The pub has historically been the focal point for the area, the hub where people can meet and feel like it is theirs.
“I wanted to build on this by giving it back to the people as a community base.”
He plans to host plays, live music and other family events such as quizzes. A new menu has also been added and the drinks range expanded to ultimately include eight cask ales. The opening range of four is St Austell Tribute, Bradfield Farmer’s Blonde, Hobgoblin and Black Sheep Best, and it will be increased next week.
Dave Rowland, from owners Punch Taverns, says the investment is one of the company’s largest ever in York, and says they hope to “reposition” The Gillygate as one of the city’s top pubs for food, drink, service and entertainment.
Over in Goodramgate, work is almost finished at The Old White Swan, where owners Nicholson’s have spent around £300,000. Much of that money has gone on increasing the cellar capacity and improving the kitchen, but customers will also see visible changes. Most notably, a new bar will open from the building into the courtyard, allowing those sitting outside to be served more quickly.
The two old fire places in the main room are being brought back into use, following extensive chimney work, and the pub has been tidied up elsewhere.
Angela Avery, who moved from the Cross Keys in the same street late last year, says there will be 19 hand-pulls in total, including three new ale pumps on the outdoor bar.
Finally, in Lendal, work is nearing completion at the Judges Lodgings. Thwaites Brewery, which bought the pub in 2012 for £1.5 million, has added it to its “Inns of Character” portfolio and spent more than £2 million – an initial £500,000 on the work last year, and now £1.7 million over the past six months.
The old cellar bar remains, but will now be accessed from a door in the centre of the building’s facade, rather than the side. The cellar bar itself has been rotated 90 degrees, the original ceiling restored and the seating replaced.
An original staircase has been unblocked, giving easier access between the cellar bar and the rest of the building, and a new cask bar has been added upstairs in what is likely to become a more peaceful part of the pub.
That upstairs bar will sell Thwaites’ own beers (such as Wainwright, Bomber and Nutty Black) and also local ales, particularly from Treboom in Shipton-by-Beninbrough. The bar area opens on to a roof terrace.
Downstairs, the beer range will be similar but with the addition of “tank beer”, through a huge copper tank selling Warsteiner. This is a form of dispensing beer that is popular in parts of mainland Europe, and is gaining a foothold in London, but this is its first appearance in York, and possibly even Yorkshire.
Nick James, manager at the Judges Lodgings, says the method makes the beer taste as fresh as is possible. “It’s unpasteurised, so it’s exactly as it is at the brewery,” he says.
The garden area has also been given a makeover and the emphasis will be on table service there from now on.
For visitors from further afield, there are an extra eight guest rooms, taking the total to 21.
• Don’t forget, Poppleton Beer Festival is today and tomorrowin the community sports pavilion in Millfield Lane, and Fulford Beer Festival is taking place on Saturday in Fulfordgate Sports Pavilion.
• There is a summer beer, cider and wine festival at Pocklington Arts Centre next Friday and Saturday.