A community can look forward to saying cheers at its local pub once again after plans to reopen next year have been announced.

The Crown in Catton closed in June 2019 after years of declining visitor numbers and reduced opening hours.

Many residents feared the building could fall into ruin after repeated unsuccessful attempts to turn the pub around. But earlier this year, new owners took over the business with an ambition to return the popular community space to its former glory.

John Gray and wife Nicole were exploring the possibility of purchasing a rural pub when they came across the Crown.

“It was a very good bargain so we thought it would be a good opportunity to put something back into the community,” John said.

After finalising the purchase earlier this year, the couple have used the lockdown period to plan and prepare the pub for reopening.

“We’re starting again,” John said, “which is good in a way as we have a blank canvas and are able to see what the business is going to look like.”

John has been keen to listen to former owners and residents of the pub’s past experience.

He said: “It’s been made very clear to me by the previous owner and several others that food was an important part of the pub so I’m bearing that in mind.

“When I bought the pub I did a lot of research into its history and found that the pub has fundamentally been financially unsuccessful under various different owners.

“The challenge I've got to try and bear in mind is that the formula similar to what’s been used in the past – a full restaurant service – is one that will be successful or if we need to think about it in a different way.

“We haven’t decided on food yet as we’ve needed to gut the pub completely, including all the kitchen equipment, but I’m sure food will play a part, we’re just not entirely certain how.”

And John remains open-minded about other aspects of the building, too.

“Because the place is gutted we’re still thinking about what we’re going to do,” he added.

“A decision we’re trying to make is whether we should rent out the upstairs rooms and offer a bed and breakfast.”

In June, residents set out plans to form a community group to reinstate the popular pub.

A survey sought local opinion on the future purpose of the building and the response was overwhelming.

John insisted the responses will form a key part of his thinking as the pub plan progresses.

He said: “People want it as a resource without question, and they want to have it as a meeting place, a parcel drop-off and a shop.

“I will pay close attention to every comment that’s been made. I was particularly struck by how many people responded to the survey, many of whom were within a distance where you could call it a local.”

For now, John and Nicole are focused on renovating the pub by spending four days a week in the Allen Valleys, while updating locals of their progress on Facebook.

John added: “A great number of the villagers have been positive and supportive of our plans for the Crown and we’re looking forward to opening."