Here at So Very Suffolk we were thrilled to hear that the The Oyster Inn at Butley had re-opened. Village pubs are at the heart of small villages, and when a pub is re-opened they can bring a positive energy to the community. We thought our readers would like to know a little bit more about the story behind how and why this lovely rural pub was restored and re-opened. We interviewed Judi Newman, who is part of the team behind the re-opening of The Oyster Inn to find out more.
It’s great to hear that the The Oyster Inn has re-opened, how did you become involved and what was it that first appealed to you about re-opening the pub?
We have lived in the local area for about 10 years so we remember the pub from when we first moved here, and were really disappointed to see it close. My husband Andrew is a keen cyclist and knows that there are many cyclists who use that route – he was fed up seeing it sit empty and decided to do something about it! We could see the damage that the closure was doing to a rural agricultural village like Butley and thought it is still had the potential to play a really important role in the vibrancy of this corner of Coastal Suffolk.
The Oyster Inn had been shut for around four years, how much of a challenge was it bring the pub back up to standard so it could be re-opened? Are there any improvements you are particularly proud of?
The pub had been entirely gutted inside so it wasn’t just a decoration job, it was a complete restoration and installation of new kitchen, bar, cellar and toilet block. We re-opened the original inglenook, commissioned beautiful new windows from the joiner in the village and sandblasted the oak beams – we have tried to make it feel cosy and traditional, but also fresh and welcoming. I think the beer garden in the back is a particularly nice new improvement on the old pub, as it has been completely re-landscaped for summer evenings.
What plans do you have to develop the The Oyster Inn in the future? Will food play a big part in these plans?
The second stage of the renovation is the complete restoration of the pub’s barns in the beer garden. Stowe Builders of Marlesford have been amazing, taking real care to restore a beautiful stretch of traditional barns retaining the Suffolk pantile roof. Once they are finished, we will have a village shop, a cinema/games room, a micro brewery and a holiday let, to help the sustainability of the pub in the long-term. Back in the pub, yes, food is important but it is not a gastro-pub restaurant – we serve traditional pub favourites such as fish pie, sausage & mash and lasagne. Half of our family are vegetarians so there are lots of veggie options too.
What would you say are some of the biggest reasons people should visit the newly re-opened The Oyster Inn at Butley?
When you mention the Butley Oyster, a lot of people immediately think of the old folk nights that were famous in the past. We have re-introduced traditional folk on the first Tuesday night of every month so that is a real treat. We have more modern music nights too, but I think it is very special to re-introduce the folk nights when it has been such a big part of the Butley Oyster heritage.
Do you have anything to add?
Only to say that everyone knows it is hard to sustain rural pubs these days so we really appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm and encouragement – and patience while we do our best to get through any teething problems! Everyone tells us that they don’t ever want to see the Butley Oyster close again, but we need everyone’s custom to help us keep it open so we are very grateful to the local community who have been fantastically supportive.