A year later and the Lattice House is once again on the market. Wetherspoon’s decided that it wasn’t for them and now Hawthorn gave also admitted defeat.
The building was originally a 15 th-century town house, becoming an inn in 1714.
Having closed in 1919, it was semi-derelict by 1982, when the building was restored and it once again became a pub.
This history has its advantages, with the building being as big an attraction as the beer for some of the customers, but there is no doubt that the past and the Grade II* listing brings challenges.
The layout of the bar means that it is difficult for the staff to serve customers quickly, especially if some of the drinks available are only in one room. This problem is compounded if the upstairs bar is operating. There are a number of small rooms that need supervising and have the empty glasses collected and the food served, obliging the staff walk a long way, climb stairs and watch out for low beams.
Given the listing, it is probably impossible to make substantial changes to the layout, which means that the staff costs are probably higher than some pubs with a similar turnover and the speed of service will also be impacted.
What are the opportunities for a new operator? One route would see the Lattice House competing on price with the competition.
With the Globe and the Maid’s Head nearby with a similar business model, it would be difficult to make it work, especially given Weatherspoon’s huge buying power and ability to negotiate rock bottom prices with their suppliers. It seems to be what Hawthorn have attempted and failed to accomplish, but with well trained and personable staff offering prompt service, it might be possible.
Another angle would be to make it into a more upmarket pub, trading on the history and offering top quality products, both ale and food and charging higher prices.
Many visitors to town would be pleased to call in, but are there enough tourists visiting Lynn through the year to make this idea viable?
Perhaps some of the Bank House type crowd, who prefer a more refined place could be attracted, but would it have more success than Bradleys did on the quayside? There are also plans to develop the old probation office by the Purfleet Dock which might be stiff competition.
There is no doubt that a lot of people really want the Lattice House to remain as a pub, and barely had the news of the impending sale broken than I was approached about the possibility that ‘we could organise a community buyout’. I am not sure who ‘we’ are. CAMRA cannot by law run any commercial enterprise or buy shares in a community pub scheme.
When the Lattice House opened in 1982, it was a separate company called CAMRA Investments who were the owners. This company is now defunct. What CAMRA can do is to offer advice and point people in the right direction to help in the difficult task of rescuing a pub.
A good start is either the Plunkett Foundation or the Pub is the Hub scheme, but we cannot lead the efforts. I don’t know how serious my contact is on getting such a project off the ground, but I can pass on the names of anyone interested in getting involved.
Personally, I think that the best scenario would be for an individual or small company to purchase the pub and drive it more up market with great beer and simple but high quality food, but whatever happens, it is important for Lynn that it continues.