Pizzeria group to emerge from £500k Star pub conversion

The Wynford Arms, Reading

Star Pubs & Bars and Thirsty Bear Group Ltd have commenced work on a £500,000 refurbishment of a Reading pub into a pizzeria, which partners hope will be part of a “group of up to six”.

The Wynford Arms is to reopen after an 18 month closure as a New York style pizzeria called Thirsty Bear. The site will be the first Thirsty Bear, led by partners Vince Healy, managing director of Ascot Inns, and New Yorker Michael Wheeler, who is an experienced pizza restaurateur, who have plans to increase sites.

Healy and Wheeler are looking for further well-located town centre sites with a minimum capacity of 100 covers and external seating in the southern, western and northern home counties in order to expand the concept.

The project follows Star’s £310,000 refurbishment of the Thatchers Tavern in Woodley, Reading, with TM Dining in September. It brings Star’s total investment in the town to £810,000 in the last four months.

Work at the Wynford Arms will double the pub’s trading area, transforming the traditional pub interior with a contemporary look and subtle American influence. Downstairs, the space will be opened up to make a bar with an open plan pizza kitchen and dessert and barista coffee stations.

Upstairs, disused accommodation will be converted into a lounge with comfortable seating and a roof garden will be created on a flat roof extension with seating for 45 people.

Thirsty Bear’s offer will have an American theme. Authentic New York style pizza will be central to the menu. The company is using secret tomato sauce topping and pizza dough recipes and importing a £20,000 pizza oven from America.

Fabio Ferrarini, an award winning pizza chef, will train Thirsty Bear’s chefs and kitchen staff. Other American dishes such as ribs and chicken wings will also be on the menu and a dessert station will sell smoothies and shakes as well as American favourites including Mississippi Mud Pie and New York style cheesecake.

Drinks will be American focused with beers such as Lagunitas, 30 specially sourced hard-to-find bourbons and 10 American gins. Half of the wine list will be American wines.

The site is expected to open in mid March.

Lawson Mountstevens, Star Pubs & Bars managing director, said: “It’s great to be able to reopen the Wynford Arms and complement the regeneration of the neighbourhood. Vince has many years experience in the hospitality sector and looks set for success; the pizza recipe is second to none and Thirsty Bear will bring a distinctive and individual concept unlike any other in the town to Reading.”

Vince Healy commented: “The Wynford Arms is the ideal location for our first Thirsty Bear. With Cross Rail coming, Reading is undergoing redevelopment and there are hundreds of homes being built in the area surrounding the pub. We believe the combination of a unique pizza, fresh pasta and a great drinks range will be a great addition to Reading’s busy restaurant and bar scene.”

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