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[personal profile] helenic

There has been pub progress. Significant progress, but it's all been under wraps until contracts were signed. We've now agreed to exchange contracts on the day we move in, so we may as well start talking about it now, since we've already been working on it for ages and things are about to get a lot busier.

Short version: after waiting months and months for the Yorkshire pub to get back to us, in March we started looking for backup options. We found one in Sussex, went to visit, and fell in love with it. We've had an offer accepted and are moving out of London on the 10th of May, aiming to open on the 27th of May for a Grand Opening beer festival and gig.

You can imagine how stressful it was not hearing back from Fridaythorpe. I was very seriously invested in it; I hadn't realised how much until [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers bounded downstairs all excited about having found another option, and told us it was in Sussex. I agreed with everyone else that it looked lovely, but my heart broke a little bit at the idea that I wouldn't be moving back up north.

Then we went to see it.

the Queens Head - front of the building

It's a beautiful, rambling Restoration building with exposed beams, in a lovely old hilltop town near Hastings, called Rye. Rye rises out of the surrounding drained fenland like Ely, and it's one of those little towns you visit with your Nan for cream tea, not somewhere real people actually live. It's full of antique shops and craft jewellers, with a gorgeous old church and ruined castle. The pub is a Grade 2 listed building. It's a couple of doors down from the Landsgate, the only remaining one of the four original town gates.

the Landsgate

The pub is called the Queen's Head, and is a going concern. It's got a huge, horseshoe-shaped bar with a hatch down to the cellar in the middle. On the right hand side as you come in is the Snug Bar, currently containing a TV screen and pool table, with customer toilets at the back.

the snug bar

On the left there's a spacious lounge bar and dining area, with a glass-panelled area at the front which can be used as an office.

lounge bar

lounge bar

The dining area extends back through a warren-like corridor to a function room built into the top half of the old stables block. It's like one of those nostalgic, magical buildings you get in dreams, with wings and passageways that unexpectedly open up on endless new rooms.

passageway between dining area and function room

function room

The function room is big enough for folk sessions and gigs, and there's a hatch through to the kitchen, which is spacious and clean enough, although not huge.


In the middle is a courtyard, with a covered picnic table and separate smoking area. The space by the stables has a flowerbed running along one side and an overhanging tree, and is big enough to put tables in and serve as a small beer garden. The old stable is now a garage with stable doors that open at the front, and it actually has a festival bar in, which the current owners open on Bonfire Night with a hogroast.

festival bar. Currently full of junk, like most of the old stable block.

Interior steps by the toilets lead up to the five guest rooms. These are all small, but the bathrooms are surprisingly big, although a couple of them need refitting. There are two doubles, a twin, a family and a four-poster room.

double guest room

four poster guest room

This corridor winds around (above the front of the horseshoe bar; the guest rooms are above the Snug) to the residences. Steps lead up to an attic garret, with two large, low rooms above the eaves. There's a double bedroom with shower en suite, and a living area with kitchenette, although no oven.

The first floor flat has two double bedrooms, one with a shower (which is plumbed in, but currently out of use and filled with junk), a bathroom, and a shower in the loo, so that's three showers and one loo for a two bedroom flat. The kitchen and living room are largeish and pleasant, and the rambling corridor, exposed beams and low ceilings lend it a hobbity feel, even though it isn't underground. None of the walls are at right angles. The bedroom that will be mine (not big enough for Chris's bed) has a tiny cat-window, which can be left open as it's not big enough for humans, and is two old tiny rooms knocked through. There's a raised area, currently containing an office, and a lower area with big fitted wardrobes. I'll put the bed in the top area and have my office and easel in the other. The small doors for both rooms are both still functional, so you can block one off and use the other. The charming thing is that the original beams in the wall between the two old rooms couldn't be removed, so they've been left in place, four pillars of black oak just wide enough to squeeze between. It'll be like living in a miniature grove.

The window in the bathroom is big enough to step through, and wooden decking stretches down to the balcony. We want to extend the decking, and use it as a kitchen garden and residents' smoking area. There's a door through to the public guestrooms, and steps down to the courtyard. [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers will have the garret, and [livejournal.com profile] yakherd will have one of the double guest rooms, but they'll both share our living areas and we'll all spend a lot of time in the pub.

rooftop balcony

It doesn't have any real ale taps at the moment; we're going to be building an new stillage and radically reorganising the cellar. There's a lot of other work to be done as well. Three vast storage rooms in the old stable block are overflowing with junk and rubbish; we need to clear it all out and clean so the rooms can be used for storage. We want to start a mini brewery in one of them. There's also a narrow workshop with a workbench and stools.

We met the landlady on the day; she seemed to take a liking to us, which was mutual. We shook hands, went home and [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers drew up a revised business plan. We found out the fixtures and fittings cost more than we expected, made a lower offer, and the second one was accepted, which after some skilled haggling from [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers left us in a place we could afford it. We incorporated, signed investment and applied for a bank loan. [personal profile] bard is in the process of getting his personal licence and [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers has bought an estate car.

After lots of discussions about my role in the business, what work I'll be doing for them as Shiny Ideas, what as Earth Sky Art and what I'll be doing just because I live there, and whether I'll be paid for the intensive two week refurbishment we'll need to do before we open, we agreed that it made most sense to make me a shareholder. Which is pretty awesome. So I own 5% of the business, I'm invoicing for the bare minimum of the branding, web design and development I need to do over the next three months, and I won't charge for anything I do as Earth Sky Art. I won't be working at the pub full time - I'm still going to be doing Shiny Ideas work, still travelling up to London regularly to see [personal profile] denny and [personal profile] khalinche, do political stuff and meet with clients. But I'll be on hand to do cover shifts if I don't have a client deadline, and I can help on the bar in busy shifts and generally be around and make the place feel welcoming. I'm going to be responsible for most of the marketing for the business, and I have great plans for the interior and exterior decor.

Getting ready before we open is only going to be possible if we can find people to help, but luckily we have readily available guest rooms, food and drink to tempt people with. Given the intensive nature of the rig and the finite (if relatively generous) amount of accommodation available, I'm going to be contacting artists and craftspeople with the skills I need most urgently. I'm hoping to be able to put together a team of people I trust enough to give creative responsibility to, and with a wide enough range of skills to get everything done in time. It's ridiculously short notice though, so I might well be putting out a general call for hands if we're short-staffed.

And the hilarious thing? Last weekend the Yorkshire pub got back to us and accepted our offer. After leaving us with no word for five months. Three weeks before we move into a pub we only first looked at three weeks ago. Can you believe it? This is of course a good thing, as well as being an excellent joke, because it means if it all goes bizarrely, horribly wrong and we can't sign the contract at the Queen's Head after all, we still have a backup pub in Yorkshire. Although it would be a pain, because [personal profile] bard has his last day at the Pembury tomorrow and isn't earning until we open the next pub, and I've handed in my notice on my flat and would have to move in with my mum and dad temporarily while we sorted things out. And going back to the Fridaythorpe pub would be a bit of a headfuck at this stage. But at least we wouldn't have to start the whole process of looking for the next pub from scratch.

We have all fallen head over heels in love with the Queen's Head. It would be impossible not to. I am so excited I don't know how to process it. It's like being invited to Hogwarts. I never in my life imagined I would get to live anywhere this beautiful, especially not before I was thirty. It still doesn't seem real, and I still don't dare believe it's actually going to happen, but I have to start acting as if it is because we need branding and a holding page ready before we move.

I've barely had time to think about all this during the electoral campaign, and I've felt torn between wanting to focus on the pub and wanting to focus on the two political campaigns I'm involved with. The headsplodeness of Denny's candidacy happening at the same time as this, and the election taking place literally four days before I move out of London, is making everything seem very weird and disjointed and dramatic. I do genuinely believe that Denny and I will be fine; we only see each other a couple of nights a week anyway, and we talk on IRC every day. It'll be nice to have a bigger place to invite him to, to be able to spend long weekends together rather than working till midnight and then crashing out. I will miss him. And at the same time, the exhilirating joy of moving in with Chris is making my heart swirl. I was always going to feel torn when I moved in with one of them, but the timing with the election is ridiculous.

The pub is a profoundly good thing, and I feel incredibly, indescribably lucky, but it's also bizarre and overwhelming and terrifying. So many big changes happening at once: moving out of London; moving in with Chris; moving in with Marcus and Andy; moving away from Denny and doing the long-distance thing again; moving to the country; starting a new business. Any of them would be big; all at once they're hard to know how to process.

Mostly though the anxiety is overpowered by the excited, joyful anticipation. We can do so much with this place. It'll be a beautiful place to live, and the possibilities are exhilirating. We have been planning and dreaming nonstop since we saw it.

I have six working days left before the election, then it's a swift pack, move house, and plunge straight into a lightning, high-intensity refurb project. Then the opening beer festival, then June 1 I'm back at my desk and I've already got Shiny Ideas clients booked up until the start of August. It's going to be a crazy summer. But, I think, a happy one.

on 2010-04-23 08:49 am (UTC)
liv: methane on Mars, labelled "squeeee!!!" (squee)
Posted by [personal profile] liv
Gosh, that's one of the most exciting journal entries I've seen in a while. All the very best with this fantastic project!

on 2010-04-23 02:19 pm (UTC)
forthwritten: girl (Cecilia from PhD comics) wearing headphones and dancing (dancing)
Posted by [personal profile] forthwritten
Oh wow, how exciting! I wish you all the luck in the world.

April 2016

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