Volunteers who saved a Chester pub from the bulldozer hope the public will get behind their alehouse as it reopens as a community venue this Friday (September 16).
The Centurion in Oldfield Drive, Vicars Cross, will be run by the community for the community following a heroic story with a happy ending so far.
Regulars doggedly fought off plans that would have seen the pub demolished, with a 64-bed care home built in its place, after successfully arguing the pub was not just a business but a vital social hub.
And The Centurion Community Action Group Ltd (CCAG) is grateful to Chester-based Admiral Taverns for then striking a deal on an initial 12-month lease to get the pub back up-and-running.
In the space of a fortnight the community raised a staggering £21,000 to pay for three months’ rent in advance and other set-up costs.
The next step is to raise the colossal sums needed to submit a bid to Admiral to purchase the pub lock, stock and barrel and secure its future.
CCAG chairman Trevor Jones said: “We want everyone who used to drink in The Centurion to come back and we want all those people who for whatever reason didn’t used to come here to start coming here. I want the whole of Vicars Cross – about 5,500 people to come here on Friday! I don’t know where we would fit them all.
“This is an opportunity for the community of Vicars Cross to demonstrate that the pub is a necessary community asset to the area.”
On Friday, the pub opens from 3pm with an official ceremony at 7pm to which supporters have been invited including Chester MP Chris Matheson, borough councillors, CAMRA and Great Boughton Parish Council.
Among those involved in the ribbon-cutting ceremony will be Tony Morris who continued to run the Sunday Centurion quiz in the nearby United Reformed Church helping to keep the community spirit alive. Also attending will be Rosemary Brookes whose late husband loved The Centurion and Alan Rogerson, a loyal regular.
All week volunteers have been cleaning and scrubbing the pub, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, to get it ready for the grand reopening.
The pub will offer Sky and BT Sport coverage. And there is an ambition for it to become a venue for live music and a welcoming place for a community groups including mothers and toddlers and informal learning sessions such iPad lessons for seniors. Charity fundraising for local good causes will be important.
Landlord Jamie Coleman, licensee at the time when the pub closed, is making a return.
He said: “Because we are becoming a free house we are able to offer the local community discounted drinks compared with prior. The prices will be competitive.”
Jamie added: “It’s not all about alcohol. We are open to offers and ideas from wherever for different groups, from children to old age pensioners – somewhere they can come, where they feel comfortable.”
Any profits will go towards purchasing the pub. Other funding options include continuing to work with organisations like the Plunkett Foundation to seek grants, issuing shares and crowd-funding or a combination of sources.