November 22. 2012 10:40PM

British Beer Company coming to downtown Portsmouth

Union Leader Correspondent

This rendering of the proposed exterior for British Beer Company shows its location at Portwalk Place in downtown Portsmouth. The Plymouth, Mass.-based pub is hoping to open by April. (COURTESY)
PORTSMOUTH - A piece of England is coming to downtown with the opening of the British Beer Company next year.

The Plymouth, Mass.-based chain went before the Historic District Commission recently to present proposed changes to the exterior of a corner of the Portwalk building.

A rendering shows deep mahogany wood and muted lighting in the space on the corner of Hanover Street and Portwalk Place.

British Beer Company opened their first New Hampshire pub in Manchester in June, and founder and principal Gary Simon said business has been going very well.

"It seems New Hampshire as a market for us is just very, very good," Simon said.

He said Portsmouth has always been on their radar because of the city's historic nature and the type of buildings downtown.

Simon grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts and went to college in Portland, Maine, so he often passed through town.

"It is a great city so we had the opportunity to go into Portwalk Place, and we looked around and loved it and signed a lease so hopefully we are moving forward," Simon said.

He said members of the Historic District Commission seemed to respond positively to their plan. Local architect Lisa DeStefano was involved in the design. BBC is scheduled to go before the HDC for final approval on Dec. 7.

The pub will fill about 5,800 square feet, and Simon said the interior will be very similar in design to the last five or six restaurants they have opened, with rich mahogany wood, leather seats, stained glass windows and furniture made in England, including the bar.

The pub will feature 38 taps that will include a selection of local and international beers as well as a full-service restaurant with about 165 seats.

"When you walk in, it doesn't look brand new, it looks like it's been there for 100 years, and once it opens, it takes on the personality of the customers," Simon said.

Many staff members, including the executive chef, are sent to England to work in local pubs to gain a better understanding of the environment and what BBC is trying to convey.

"We are not contrived. We are not trying to pretend to be a pub. We are a pub, and it comes right down to the way we train our staff," Simon said.

Simon said the new restaurant will employ about 70 people both full- and part-time.

He said the pub will have televisions, because people do want to see their sports, but they will not be overwhelming.

Simon started British Beer Company 15 years ago in Plymouth, Mass., with co-founder and current director of operations Harry Gnong. Portsmouth will mark their 13th location.

He said they are hoping to have all of the necessary permits in place by January and expects it will take 12 to 16 weeks to open.