Dagenham pub reopens as African food shop

Owner Stella Osunbor with Margaret Akinwunmi outside their new supermarket, opened in what used to b

Owner Stella Osunbor with Margaret Akinwunmi outside their new supermarket, opened in what used to be The Bell pub, in Rainham Road South. - Credit: Archant

A former pub has reopened as a specialist supermarket.

The Bull, in Rainham Road South, Dagenham, had stood empty since the final pint was pulled last year.

Stella’s Groceries and Vegetables opened earlier this month, selling a range of African and Caribbean produce

Manager Stella Osunbol, 55, from Forest Hill, Lewisham, has run her own shops for the past 18 years and fell in love with the building when she first saw it.

“It’s a really nice building in a good area,” she said. “A really good place for my business.

“It’s obvious not everyone wanted to go to the pub for drinking because it closed.

“These days people go to the supermarket and drink at home. Not everyone wants to drink, but everyone wants to eat so we see the change as a good thing. Pubs aren’t always good things – there can be a lot of unpleasant situations.”

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The Bull is the second pub to change its use in three months, despite Barking and Dagenham Council’s “Last Orders? Preserving Public Houses” supplementary planning order.

Adopted in June 2014, the order only allows pubs to change use after a 12-month marketing period, if “no interest in the free or leasehold as a pub” is expressed in that time.

In February, councillors overturned recommendations to allow the Farmhouse Tavern, in Dagenham Road, to reopen as a licensed function venue and restaurant.

Catering for up to 200 guests at special events, such as weddings, caterer Gulzar Chowdhury bought the pub in 2011.

But not everyone is impressed by the changes to the borough’s pub landscape.

Office manager Julie Delaney, 46, formerly of Canberra Crescent, used to visit the tavern with her father and family.

“It used to be a really nice pub, you’d take your kids and enjoy a day with your family.

“I know pub culture’s changed but it’s sad to see community places go, whether they’re being replaced with Tesco, M&S or whatever.”