Petworth landlord pioneers Chichester district pub role

A landlord at Petworth is pioneering what may become a new role for pubs – taking over as tourist information centres.

Arjen Westerdyke, who has held the lease at the Stonemasons Inn, at North Street, Petworth, for six years, hit on the idea early this year that the pub and cash-strapped Chichester District Council could benefit if it became the town’s tourist information hub.

Now a corner of the Stonemasons’ new Mrs Smith’s Tea Room is to be dedicated to helping visitors to the area find out about accommodation, attractions, events and amenities on offer.

Mr Westerdyke said: “In Petworth over the past few years, we have seen the TIC pretty much disappear.

“There is a desk at the library, but it has limited opening times and is tucked away.

“As I was listening to the speaker, a little light started to flicker in my head!

“It occurred to me this was a service we could offer.

“It would help the council, help the town, help visitors and hopefully increase the pub’s footfall.”

Mr Westerdyke put his ideas to the district council and three weeks ago he was told the authority wanted to take up his offer.

He and his staff will be trained in their additional duties and he hopes the new Petworth TIC will be up and running some time in November.

“The council is not paying me to do this,” Mr Westerdyke added.

“We will be doing a service which makes business sense from my point of view, at a time when pubs have to adapt.

“It is early days, but I cannot see there is any reason why it would not work.

“We are looking at it as a pilot.

“If it is successful here, there is a good possibility it will be rolled out to other pubs in Chichester district and maybe beyond.”

Chichester District Council said in a statement: “We were aware the landlord had been talking to Visit Chichester about providing tourist information.

“We welcome any new initiatives that will enhance the tourism offer of the district and provide wider publicity to our varied and wonderful destinations.”