A HISTORIC Oxford pub is finally set to welcome customers back after shutting for the second time in two years.

The Grapes, in George Street, will reopen next Wednesday following a five-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pub, which dates back to the early 19th century, underwent a £70,000 refurbishment in early 2019 after it was bought by the West Berkshire Brewery.

Located opposite Oxford’s New Theatre, it is popular with theatre-goers, but the venue’s continued closure means The Grapes will have to do without a normally-reliable source of revenue.

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It means the pub is relying on custom from Oxford residents more than ever, but general manager Romy Hewitt revealed the early signs are promising.

She said: “Lockdown might have revealed just how much small and independent businesses need support.

“We’re opposite the theatre and normally get a lot of trade from there.

“A lot of people are trying to stay local and we’ve had a lot of customers reach out who are desperate for us to reopen.”

Boris Johnson announced last month that theatres would be allowed to reopen on August 1, but only on a trial basis and with limited capacities.

The Oxford Playhouse, in nearby Beaumont Street, is also yet to restart performances.


The Grapes closed on March 20, when the Prime Minister told all pubs, restaurants and cafes to shut as social distancing measures ramped up.

It came just weeks after the venue won a prestigious Beer Marque award for outstanding quality keg and cask beer – becoming the first in Oxfordshire to receive full marks from judges.

Many of the city’s watering holes reopened their doors when lockdown was eased on July 4, with social restrictions in place and limited capacity.

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But Ms Hewitt revealed the small pub wanted to hold off from a return to trading until consumer confidence started to come back.

The 26-year-old, originally from Wallingford, said: “The size of the pub is a factor for us, as we have lost a bit of seating.


“Beer lovers come to us, so regular customers come for the experience of standing at the bar and having a drink.

“We wanted to make sure we could maintain a really friendly and welcoming environment.

“We now feel it’s a little bit more possible, now people understand the measures and restrictions.”

The Grapes’ reopening comes as more city centre pubs benefit from an agreement between Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to provide space in the road for outdoor seating.

Tables and chairs have already been set out in areas of Cornmarket Street and the newly part-pedestrianised section of St Michael’s Street, with more locations to follow.

Meanwhile, an area of seating has also been set up outside Blackwell's bookshop and The White Horse pub in Broad Street.