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'We had no heating for four years' - landlord reveals ups and downs of a decade running popular pub

PUBLISHED: 11:13 05 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:03 05 November 2019

Green Dragon landlord Justin Harvey and head chef Leesa Arrowsmith celebrate 10 years at the Wymondham pub. Photo: Submitted

Green Dragon landlord Justin Harvey and head chef Leesa Arrowsmith celebrate 10 years at the Wymondham pub. Photo: Submitted

Archant

The landlord behind an award-winning pub has shared his secret to surviving the ups and downs of a struggling industry.

The Green Dragon in Wymondham has won CAMRA rural pub of the year.
L-r manager, Nick Judge, Moya Topsom bar maid, head Chef Leesa Arrowsmith, landlord Justin Harvey.The Green Dragon in Wymondham has won CAMRA rural pub of the year. L-r manager, Nick Judge, Moya Topsom bar maid, head Chef Leesa Arrowsmith, landlord Justin Harvey.

Justin Harvey was 37 when he took over the lease of the Green Dragon pub in Wymondham 10 years ago.

The publican had originally intended to take on the now closed Queen Charlotte pub on Dereham Road, but when the deal fell through, he decided to take a gamble on the market town favourite.

He said: "It was a bit of an accident. My ex-business partner and I got drunk, said lets open a pub, and a week later we were in the Green Dragon."

The first few years were challenging for the novice publicans.

Wymondham Green Dragon beer festival. Festival organiser and landlord Justin Harvey. Photo : Steve AdamsWymondham Green Dragon beer festival. Festival organiser and landlord Justin Harvey. Photo : Steve Adams

Mr Harvey said people joked that the building was cursed, and several pieces of bad luck, including the venue being struck by 15 cars and a lorry in the past 10 years, seemed to confirm this.

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On top of that, the pub had no central heating, and faced several record-breaking cold winters before it was installed.

Mr Harvey said: "It was freezing. We had several plug-in heaters in the bar and everyone had to huddle round them, but we got used to it."

The Green Dragon pub in Wymondham has been decked out in festive splendour by former florist Moya Topsom. Photo: Kelly Walace-SmithThe Green Dragon pub in Wymondham has been decked out in festive splendour by former florist Moya Topsom. Photo: Kelly Walace-Smith

As well as updates to the heating system, the publican threw himself into renovating several of the 14th century pub's historic features, including the 16th century fireplace, which had been hidden by a 1980s gas fire.

The publican added: "We're lucky to have this building, its unique in so many ways. We try to keep the history alive."

Mr Harvey attributes the success of the pub to the tight-knit team of staff who keep it running.

Head chef Leesa Arrowsmith, now 47, met Mr Harvey through work at the Rose Valley Tavern on Unthank Road, and over the past decade has built the Green Dragon's reputation as a dining spot.

Mr Harvey said: "You do get bad days, but I have a really good team here. My advice to landlords is to try to enjoy it. You get stressy days but if you can keep it upbeat and smiley then it comes across."

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