New beginning for Imperial

James Willis-Boden new owner the Imperial, Weston.

James Willis-Boden new owner the Imperial, Weston. - Credit: Archant

THE owner of Weston pub The Imperial has promised to breathe new life into the venue after taking over this month.

A mainstay in Weston since the early 20th century, the pub has been through some difficult times in more recent years, closing twice in the space of barely 12 months due to financial troubles.

James Willis-Boden, who already runs Bonds Wine Bar in Walliscote Road, said the inspiration of The Imperial’s ‘potential’ had been a big draw in buying the pub, which he plans to re-open on May 30.

He said: “I’ve got real ambition for this place, it has so much potential and talking to people about it, there are so many memories; everyone has a story.

“I really feel like this could be quite a good flagship. We have got some decent places here, but they are all brands and we want everything to be really local.

“Everything food-wise is going to be sourced locally and we have been trying to make sure our guest ales are from within 20 miles.”

Mr Willis-Boden is no stranger to turning businesses around, having turned Bonds into a thriving bar, and said he would look to do the same again.

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He said: “Bonds was on the down as well and I would like to think I’ve made a success of it; people enjoy coming in for a drink, which is brilliant. I want to make this a success too.”

The Imperial suffered its most recent closure when it shut doors unexpectedly just days before New Year’s Eve, leaving dozens who had left a deposit for meals during the festive period out of pocket.

Mr Willis-Boden said: “I’ve managed to track down some of the guests who were booked in and will be inviting them back and refunding them their deposit through their visit.

“What I want to do is release the potential of this place, all pubs now have to have a strong food menu and I plan to put on the traditional kind of thing, but then with some additions people might not have tried before – rabbit stew, fish soup, things like that.”

With The Imperial at the heart of Weston town centre for so many decades, Mr Willis-Boden was inspired to investigate its history alongside local historian John Crockford-Hawley, and the pair uncovered some unusual findings about its past.

He said: “It used to be called the Royal Bath but changed when a couple of actors stayed here for one night.

“They hired out the best carriage in town which pulled up outside the train station, and suddenly these rumours started flying about that one of them was a prince.

“They played along, came to stay and there were hundreds of people outside waiting for them. After they left, this place changed its name to commemorate it. It’s a great little story. I’ve always loved history, but obviously it’s the business I was most interested in.”