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‘Finally’ - Pub reopens under new landlord after challenges during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 15:26 07 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:26 07 October 2020

John McKiernan, new landlord at the St John's Head on North Quay in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Courtesy of John McKiernan.

John McKiernan, new landlord at the St John's Head on North Quay in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Courtesy of John McKiernan.

Archant

A 400-year-old pub in Great Yarmouth has finally reopened after the new landlord faced obstacles during the coronavirus lockdown.

A spruced-up St John's Head, on North Quay in Great Yarmouth, is open again under new management. Picture: John McKiernan.A spruced-up St John's Head, on North Quay in Great Yarmouth, is open again under new management. Picture: John McKiernan.

The St John’s Head, a freehold on North Quay dating from the 17th century, was bought earlier this year by Gillian Harwood, founder and managing director of Busworks, a London-based company which converts old buildings into business hubs, while the man behind the taps will be entrepreneur John McKiernan.

The original plan was for a light revamp before reopening the pub in March - but that was before the pandemic.

Mr McKiernan, who is originally from London and took over the venue in February, said: “It seems like a millennium ago, just before lockdown.

“The pub had reopened in July and August but had to close again due to an electrical fault.

A spruced-up St John's Head, on North Quay in Great Yarmouth, is open again under new management. Picture: John McKiernan.A spruced-up St John's Head, on North Quay in Great Yarmouth, is open again under new management. Picture: John McKiernan.

“It finally reopened again on Saturday (October 3),” he said.

His long-term plan, put on hold by the virus, is to transform the premises from traditional English pub into a futuristic cafe bar and shared workspace offering light, locally-sourced food, soundart and electronic performances, talks and exhibitions.

Mr McKiernan, originally from London, has a background in advertising and in the 1990s set up a coffee bar chain in the capital.

What brought him to Great Yarmouth is his interest in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a period when new technologies including automation, artificial intelligence and augmented reality will fundamentally change the way everybody lives their lives.

A spruced-up St John's Head, on North Quay in Great Yarmouth, is open again under new management. Picture: John McKiernan.A spruced-up St John's Head, on North Quay in Great Yarmouth, is open again under new management. Picture: John McKiernan.

“I want to introduce some of the stuff coming down the pipeline, robots and apps and automated systems, to introduce them in ways that are fun and playful.

“But that can’t be done for now, everything’s just difficult, so it’s going back to basics,” he said.

Those basics, for now, include more than 50 different kinds of ale from breweries all over Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, with the pub open for taster sessions, where groups of four to six people pay £6 per head and get to sample a variety of beers.

This makes more business sense than having five individual customers, which would mean the pub, due to restrictions, would be “full”, the landlord said.

The St John’s Head is open Wednesday to Saturday from 1pm to 9pm and Sunday from 1pm to 6pm.

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