'Wetherspoons is overrated' - Alternative plan for future chain pub site draws mixed response
PUBLISHED: 10:35 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:33 05 March 2019
Plans to turn a historic North Walsham building earmarked for a Wetherspoon into an independent pub/restaurant with a cinema attached instead have met a mixed reaction.
Some people have thrown their weight behind the alternative idea on social media, whereas others have said they would still rather the town have a branch of the country’s biggest pub chain.
North Walsham businessman Robert Scammell, who runs Cafe Kitale in St Nicholas Court, said an independent business in the former town council office in New Road would need a £1.6m investment and create about 30 new jobs.
Commenting on this newspaper’s Facebook page, Kathryn Wiseman said she was in favour of the new idea, saying: “Would much rather have a locally based employer take over the site. Proper wages, local food. What’s not to love.”
Ted Scott said he would also prefer an independent business. He said: “Gotta be better than Wallyspoons, unless of course you like out of date beer and rubbish food.”
MORE: £1.6m alternative to Wetherspoon’s in Norfolk town
Mark Sowerbutts added: “Yep, let’s go local. Wetherspoons is overrated never had a good meal there.”
Another commenter, Mervyn Gray, suggested a compromise, saying the pub chain could take over the former town council building, while the alternative business could go into the former Barclays bank branch in Market Place, which closed earlier this year.
He said: “Why not have both? Let Wetherspoons have the council building and let Mr S have the Barclays building in town centre, then the good folk of North Walsham can have a choice of were they want to eat and drink.”
But others questioned whether an independent business could thrive as much as a branch of the popular pubco.
Karen Neil said: “Wetherspoons will have the longevity as already a proven business. Think Robert’s idea is a good one but would be worried that it wouldn’t be sustainable.”
While Sam Englestone said: “Oh just get it sorted for god’s sake, it’s starting to drag like Brexit.”
JD Wetherspoon first said it wanted to move into the building five years ago, but is still yet to sign on the dotted line.
North Norfolk District Council said last week that “final issues” stopping the pub chain project moving forward for years had been sorted out, and an exchange of contracts was imminent.
Mr Scammell said of the alternative plan: “It would be a three-way partnership with myself as the operator, plus a partner who specialises in catering, and a Norfolk-based start-up company that deals in small cinemas.”