The Witton Arms has long been one of Birmingham's best pubs for home and away fans travelling to Villa Park on match days.
The venue, located on Witton Road, is just a stone's throw away from Aston Villa's home ground, and it underwent a major refurbishment ahead of the new season after being taken over by Kiran Chavda and his brother Jessel in August. After acquiring the venue, the new owners changed tack and it's now a pub for Aston Villa fans only on days when Unai Emery's men are playing.
Fans of other clubs are more than welcome when Villa aren't in action, but Kiran and his brother have helped to transform the Arms into a must-visit location for Villa fans. Three months into the new Premier League season, and Kiran says the pub is hosting more than 1,000 fans on match days.
"Historically, the pub was working well as an away fans pub, but we saw a gap to open the pub as a Villa one and that's transpired really nicely so far," Kiran told BirminghamWorld.
He added: "We have a 40,000 seat capacity at Villa Park and we know that's going to be increased so we thought why don’t we create a nice community pub on this side of town for supporters? once we get them through the doors on match days we could get them through the door on non-match days as well."
Kiran says the pub has the biggest television in Birmingham located in its garden - a 5m x 3.5 metres screen, as well a number of televisions inside the pub so customers can choose what sport they want to watch. The garden also holds up to 650 people and the pub's giant marquee covers 500 people. And if that's not enough, the venue has seven bars so fans don't have to wait long for a drink. They're certainly aiming to create a fan park atmosphere for fans.
"A lot of my friends would previously drink in town before the match, which is why we thought this would be a better direction to take it in as it's so close to the stadium," said Kiran. "We want to entertain the home fans which we try to do as originally as we can. All of the work here to transform the pub has been done within a month."
Aston Villa players from the 1982 European Cup winning team visit The Witton Arms
The venue also has some Villa memorabilia on the walls, including photos of the club's 1982 European Cup winning team, after Colin Gibson and Alan Evans from the legendary squad popped into the Arms a few weeks ago. Members of the 82 team often do talks at Villa Park so many of them have headed to the Witton Arms afterwards to meet fans.
As a Villa fan, these have been great moment for Kiran. The Aston Villa Women's Supporters Group also held an event at the pub a couple of weeks ago, and Kiran says he would like to work with the club as much as they can, and is hopeful the pub will also benefit from the multi-million pound development of Witton Train Station.
Transport for West Midlands have commissioned a study into transport options for the expanded Villa Park stadium – including a total revamp of Witton station. Independent expert transport consultants have continued to oversee the use of Witton station on match days this season and, later this autumn, will report back on likely costs and options for redevelopment of the elevated railway station. "This whole area is on the up," says Kiran.
The pub's owners are still figuring some things out. The kitchen isn't fully up and running yet but they've been serving food such as burgers, hot dogs, fries, chicken wings, pizza and even Sunday roasts thanks to some help from a fellow Villa fan. Brett Sandland was the executive chef at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and he's been cooking food for the pub's fans on match days.
"We thinking of different way to appeal to supporters. For example when Villa played Nottingham Forest away on Sunday(November 5) we offered free pizza which went down a treat.
It’s all going to take time like any pub, but the word is getting out there now. It’s my first pub and one of the biggest in Birmingham."