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Restoring Dagenham’s ‘iconic music venue’

PUBLISHED: 13:30 02 February 2016

Bar manager Mick Smith says he and owner George Hand can rebuild The Roundhouse's reputation in Dagenham

Bar manager Mick Smith says he and owner George Hand can rebuild The Roundhouse's reputation in Dagenham

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The Roundhouse, which hosted Status Quo, Led Zeppelin and Queen, is being restored to its former glory, according to its new owner.

George Hand took over The Roundhouse in Dagenham in November, just weeks before it was made an asset of community value.

The 57-year-old believes that his success running The Club in Broad Street prepared him to restore the Lodge Avenue venue’s reputation as a talent-spotting site after its reputation suffered a decline.

“It had gone downhill as a pub and a venue – it was the sort of place where you’d wipe your feet on the way out,” George admitted.

“I’ve restored it back to its former glory with the assistance of the council after they made it an asset of community value.

“I’ve worked closely with [council leader] Cllr Darren Rodwell – without him this place would’ve gone down the pan.”

The venue’s overhaul, which began about six weeks ago, has transformed the interior of the main pub building, which includes three bars, a pool table and a stage.

And George is currently refurbishing the venue’s hallowed music hall. It will feature the venue’s fourth bar and be ready in time to welcome Irish folk band The Dublin Legends, formerly known as The Dubliners, for a St Patrick’s Day celebration on March 19.

He said he plans to track down the best tribute bands to the groups that played in the venue when it was at its peak, which included Tyrannosaurus Rex, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd.

And bar manager Mick Smith, 58, says regular appearances by covers band Exposé, along with lowered beer prices, are already helping re-establish The Roundhouse’s reputation.

“I think when people come in now it feels a bit more secure,” he said. “The regulars want to keep it open and since I started here in November people have made us welcome – we can’t ask for more than that.

“The place has been run down in the past and we want to build it back up because this is an iconic music venue.”

But George also thinks he can broaden The Roundhouse’s appeal by also making it a hub for sports fans with the venue’s new darts competition being staged in the sports bar.

He hopes that the sports bar, part of which is dedicated to West Ham United and painted in Hammers’ claret and blue accordingly, will provide a space in which sporting events can be screened.

“We’re trying to cater for everyone and the community needs a broad appeal,” he said.

“There’s a mix of different races in the area and this community is based on that.

“We’ve got the music bar, the West Ham bar, the lounge bar and we’ve knocked through the kitchen to make it bigger.”

Asked how he would know whether his restoration had succeeded, George said a blend of heritage and modernity would be his ideal outcome.

“We want to bring back the showtime and I think old entertainment’s the best entertainment,” he explained.

“Ideally it would be back to how it orginally was but in a modern time.

“It would provide music and live bands every week that people can come and enjoy and feel secure.”

Barmaid Wendy Ross, 45, thinks the key to the venue’s future lies with the customers.

She said if the reception they’ve given staff so far is anything to go by, The Roundhouse’s formerly bad reputation will be replaced with one it deserves.

“I love it here,” she admitted. “The customers are really friendly because this pub’s had a lot of bad reviews and now they can’t believe how fresh and clean it is.

“It’s all about connecting with the punters and asking them what they want to see.

“I’ve lived in Dagenham all my life but I’d never been here before I started work here in November.”

George agrees, and thinks the most important thing about his takeover is that it serves the community.

He also wants to improve the appeal of Dagenham to younger music fans without alienating its loyal punters.

“I will do anything but it must be community-focused,” he said.

“It’s about keeping The Roundhouse’s status and its history for promoting young bands, singers and artists.”

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