Alternative Pubs is reopening The Hobbit pub in Southampton following a £600,000 joint investment with Star Pubs & Bars. The refurbishment has given the pub a unique fantasy theme in keeping with its name and added one of the biggest beer gardens in the city centre. Ten new jobs have been created.
The Hobbit now boasts a burrow-like bar with faux round windows, a moss wall, wood paneling and leather-upholstered furniture as well as a dungeon-styled live music room. The room has a stage, a professional sound system and space for an audience of 80.
The fantasy theme continues outside with an enchanted forest verandah and an armoury-inspired games area. The enlarged garden has seating for 240 plus new furniture, planting and festoon lighting. An outside bar – complete with draught beer and cider – and a kitchen with stone pizza ovens will serve those sitting al fresco.
A new outdoor stage will enable The Hobbit to build on its reputation for music and hold festivals and other events such as comedy nights for up to 500 people once restrictions are lifted.
Other improvements include a cellar overhaul and the installation of SmartDispense to ensure consistently perfect pints. The project has also upgraded the toilets, repainted the outside of The Hobbit and erected a feature entrance. A new menu of food and drink will complement the fantasy theme.
The pub’s stunning look and unusual theming are the brainchild of Alternative Pubs co-founders Jack Andrews and Hanson Leech who also operate The Shooting Star and The Black Phoenix in Southampton. The duo took the lease on The Hobbit with Star Pubs & Bars in September 2019. They are now eyeing further expansion with a view to building up a portfolio of up to ten leased pubs across other nearby city and town centres.
Says Andrews: “Our business model is built on leaseholds. As our money isn’t tied up in freeholds we can expand more rapidly. The risk is also diversified and shared. The pandemic has shown you can’t underestimate the value of that; we’ve really benefited from Star’s rent support.”
Continues Andrews: “The refurbishment has unlocked The Hobbit’s potential and future-proofed the pub. 150 of the new outdoor seats are under cover, a real asset with covid still around. With so many music festivals and gigs cancelled in the last year, we’ll be able to cater for pent-up demand and look forward to putting on some great events.”
Comments Stephen McInerney, Star Pubs & Bars’ area manager for Southampton: “We’re delighted to have invested in The Hobbit and supported Alternative Pubs’ inspired vision for the pub. The transformation is amazing and gives customers a unique experience. It brings something totally new to Southampton and really adds to all the city has to offer.