New plans for former Funky Bear site in Sutton Coldfield unveiled

A new owner has taken the keys to a former Sutton Coldfield restaurant site with a plan to return it to its former glory. Sunny Rai has signed a lease with Thwaites to take over the former Funky Bear in Mere Green, almost a year after it was closed and boarded up.

Sunny whose family run another pub in Derby. The Chestnut Tree, and have years of experience in the hospitality trade plan to turn the venue back into a traditional pub, called the White Lion, as it once was. But with some modern twists.

While the venue became more of an eatery as the Funky Bear, and under its previous guise as the Hoof and Feather, Sunny plans to take it back to being a pub first and foremost, but also with an Indian food offering, which will vary depending on the time of the day.

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The pub is being stripped out and having, new herringbone wooden flooring, a new roof and décor inside, with the main bar returning to the left-hand side of the site, with the bar that was put into the right-hand side being removed to allow for a cosy 52-seater Indian diner.

As well as a pub and Indian restaurant the new-look White Lion will also become a sports bar offering Sky Sports and TNT Sports channels showing all the live sporting events. The plan is also to have live music at weekends, quiz nights and poker nights.

There will be two stand-out features which will be a focal point for the new White Lion. Two Pergolux outdoor glass pergola drinking areas. Think glass boxes with retractable metal rooves and sides, which can be used all year round.

The new look White Lion will have two glass pergolas (similar to the one pictured) with retractable rooves and glass sides which can be slid open or closed shut
The new look White Lion will have two glass pergolas (similar to the one pictured) with retractable rooves and glass sides which can be slid open or closed shut -Credit:Pergolux

They will have heaters for use in the cold conditions and can be completely opened up for the summer. The one at the front of the site will be smaller, around 20-seater, and the one at the back, bigger at 46-seats and will be able to be hired for private parties. There will be benches outside too.

There will also be an ‘Insta wall’ – an area with floral decorations, the pub’s logo and a fancy chair of sofa where people can take photos and post online. Orders can be made at tables with QR codes, at the bar and there will also be waiters and waitresses to take them too.

The focus is on making the venue a community pub again, sitting as it does in the heart of a housing area. Sunny is keen to get the neighbours onside and has already knocked on doors to explain his plans and promising he will be a 'good neighbour'.

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The 39-year-old, who first showed his interest in the venue in June last year, and finally got the keys to it last week, after signing a 15-year lease, said: “The plans is to it back to being the White Lion, but with Indian food on offer. It will be a family-run pub.

“We will have Sky Sports and TNT Sports and a main 100-inch screen, not a projector. As well as a 65-inch screen above the fireplace, another at the back wall and smaller TVs as well so wherever you are in the bar you can see one.

“We will have bands and DJs on Fridays and Saturdays and also poker nights and quiz nights. We will bring a traditional pub back to the community.”

On the food side, there will be differing offers depending on the time of the day. Sunny said: “We will have a bar menu in the day – all day from opening until the kitchen closes at 10pm, Indian tapas food, also grills and pizzas. Then from 2pm to 5pm will have a daytime family menu. And from 5pm the restaurant opens with authentic, traditional Indian food.”

And Sunny said he had an affection for Sutton, has a personal reason for returning the pub to the White Lion name and cannot wait to get started. The dad-of-two said: “I am from Derby but my cousin lives in Streetly and I have been here quite a few times and will be moving to Sutton.

“I have always loved Sutton. There’s Sutton Park here. You wouldn’t find an opportunity like this elsewhere.”

“I’m so excited! I am Sikh, and for me lions are quite symbolic of what we are. My middle name is Singh the translation is lion. The area needs a bit of heritage too and going back to the White Lion is part of that.”

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The pub will create 10 new jobs when It opens. It will be open seven-days-a-week from 11am to 11pm, Sunday to Thursday and 11am to 12 midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant will be open from 5pm to 10.30pm weekdays and from 11am Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Sunny hopes the White Lion will be ready to welcome customers in August or September.