Wokingham pub could be split in two to help make it more viable

A Grade-II listed Berkshire pub will be split into two – to help make the business more viable for the future. The Hope and Anchor has been pouring pints on Station Road, Wokingham, since the mid-19th century.

However issues facing the hospitality industry have led to pub company W H Brakspear and Sons Ltd lodging an application to convert part of the pub into a separate home. The home would take up the left hand side of the current pub, while the right hand side would continue to trade.

The current pub tenant has been in place for around 14 years, but despite advertising for five months the pub company has been unable to find a new tenant to take over the pub. It hopes the plans would ‘secure a long-term sustainable future for the public house’.

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In a letter submitted to Wokingham Borough Council, W H Braksprear and Sons said the ‘demise of wet-led pubs’ [pubs that mainly sell alcohol rather than food] had left the Hope and Anchors barrelage in ‘steady decline’ in recent years. It had a barrelage of 192 in 2017, and this had dropped to 58 by 2021.

It added there were a number of other issues affecting the pub as it is, to the point it ‘the sales v cost ratios are increasing to a point where both tenant and WHB face a loss-making business’. It added the pub is currently only busy two nights a week and the pub as it is can’t be divided – meaning it needed to be lit fully when it is trading even when quiet, leading to increased costs.

The Hope and Anchor in Wokingham
The Hope and Anchor in Wokingham
(Image: Katie Lamb)

The covering letter added: “The current business has a no operational commercial kitchen, meaning the offer cannot be upgraded to a high level of food, which improves the viability. The installation of any commercial kitchen could not be considered due to the lack of any space or cold storage facilities on the first floor and difficulties installing effective commercial kitchen extraction system in the listed building. The lack of a food offer means the pub is unable to counter the decline in wet sales.

“The lack of parking, together with lack of any direct separate entrance for the letting rooms, has meant we have struggled to rent the rooms on a nightly basis, and the introduction of large chain hotels into the town centre, has largely driven business away from small B&B operators.”

“The Wokingham town centre has undergone a transformation in recent years, with large amounts of house building and town centre redevelopment happening. The pub unfortunately sits just outside this area of redevelopment, meaning the large amount of well invested additional hospitality in the town centre has created a ‘circuit’ of offers meaning the attraction of walking 10-15 minutes out of the centre has less appeal.”

The developer believes converting half of the pub into a separate home would help make the business more viable. This would also allow the rental costs to be lowered.

The letter said: “If the pub was to remain as is, we will struggle to attract any applicants unless the pub is changed to make it more viable. A more compact pub will be able to be offered at a lower rent and the associated utility bills and rates would be less. This would enable the pub to be a more viable prospect to new tenants.”

A consultation on the scheme is currently underway. Wokingham Borough Council will make a decision in the coming weeks.

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