Ex-professional footballer takes over central Worthing pub ahead of major refurbishment

An ex-professional footballer has taken over a central Worthing pub ahead of major refurbishment, including turning a former nightclub into new hotel rooms.

Gary May, who played for Darlington, has been at the Grand Victorian Hotel, opposite Worthing Railway Station, for three months and says he has already seen changes, bringing in new clientele and a better atmosphere.

Gary May, new manager at the Grand Victorian Hotel in Worthing, with barman Josh Riley, right. Photo by Derek Martin DM1990017a

Gary May, new manager at the Grand Victorian Hotel in Worthing, with barman Josh Riley, right. Photo by Derek Martin DM1990017a

He has been working in hospitality all over the country since 2005 and says his speciality is venues that combine a pub and hotel.

Gary, 52, said: “I tend to go into venues that have had a bit of a problem and got a bit rundown, start them up again, put on good entertainment, recruit nice people and get everything back on track.

“Since I got here three months ago, we have gone through a programme of improving the hotel rooms, making them all fresh, and we have brought back the real ales, offering a choice of four.”

The pub is still owned by Dominion Hospitality, which has plans for a major refurbishment in the new year, using the old nightclub, formerly known as East and previously Bensons, to expand the hotel.

Gary said: “We are going to be putting in 20 more bedrooms and with the new HMRC building going up next door, this part of town is going to see a major improvement. It is going to be great for the area.

“We have got this very iconic bar, it is like walking into a 1930s London pub, but we are redoing everything, so the floor will be on one level.

“The bar will be moved back about 6ft and the reception area will move to where the dining area is now. The current toilets will be converted into the men’s toilets and the ladies’ toilets will be where the carvery is now.

“We are also putting in a coffee shop, which will be great for all the people using the station. It will be staged refurbishment, starting early next year.”

Gary first played for Middlesborough and was a midfielder for Darlington before he was forced into retirement due to a broken leg.

His background means sport is a key focus for the pub and Gary has already built a good relationship with Worthing Football Club, in nearby Woodside Road. New televisions are showing live cricket, rugby and football and Gary is particularly looking forward to the Rugby World Cup later this month, when he will have special offers at the bar.

Being part of the community is important to Gary, so he is busy organising a Jingle All the Way sponsored walk, where everyone dresses in Santa suits.

The date has been set for Saturday, November 2, with a walk from the Grand Victorian in Worthing to The Grand in Brighton, stopping at The Marlipins in Shoreham on the way. The day will end with a big party back at the Grand Victorian, all raising money for St Barnabas House hospice.