Victoria Freehouse: Crown dining in Old City

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ed Strojan's Old City pub/restaurant, the Victoria Freehouse, features all-British brews, food and music, as well as Sunday roasts.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ed Strojan's Old City pub/restaurant, the Victoria Freehouse, features all-British brews, food and music, as well as Sunday roasts.
Posted: October 10, 2013

E D STROJAN, 29, of West Philadelphia, co-owns the Victoria Freehouse, a pub/restaurant on Front Street near Market, in Old City. The business, which took over a space in March previously occupied by the Swanky Bubbles bar, serves all-British draft beer, including casks, and all-British food. It sells 200 pints of Wells Bombardier beer a week.

Q: What made you decide to open this place?

A: We always wanted to be in the city and have a liquor license, and thought it would be awesome to do really good English beer. We do bottle and draft. We also thought we could couple authentic British beer and British food.

Q: What differentiates you from other pubs in the city?

A: I think there's a lot of places that call themselves Irish bars but are just drinking places that serve Miller Lite and run-of-the-mill stuff. Everything here is as you would find in the British Isles.

Q: Backstory behind the name?

A: Victoria came natural and the logo is Queen Victoria, and "free house" is a pub that's not owned by a brewery.

Q: Who are your customers?

A: We get a fair amount of beer geeks. Expats make about 30 percent, tourists about 20 percent. People who know we have cask ales, a good amount of foodies, people ages 25 to 45.

Q: How big a business is this?

A: The numbers are not what I projected. This is a good location, but not a great one. We've been growing by word of mouth, and that's not necessarily the best way. There's lots of competition. We'll probably end the year at $500,000 [in revenue]. I thought we would do $25,000 a week.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: It doesn't help that there are two vacant buildings on the corner, but the landlord is going to let us put a sign up on one. You have to get people to turn the corner. Once they come, they like it.

Q: How many employees?

A: Twenty, most are full time.

Q: Why didn't your financial projections pan out?

A: There's really nothing we can put our finger on. Our location is going to take awhile. La Famiglia is right next door, but it's a different mix.

Q: What are the biggest-selling beers on the menu?

A: Any time we have anything on cask, it does well. Wells Bombardier is one of the best British beers I've ever had, and we have people who come just for that.

Q: What's next?

A: I'm looking forward to the fall, because the mix of beer and food is conducive to the weather we're going to have.

Q: You own the British Chip Shop in Haddonfield. What's different?

A: We go through about 300 pounds of potatoes a week here, vs. 1,500 in Haddonfield. The Chip Shop is more of a family restaurant. My mom and stepfather are partners in both restaurants, but I pretty much run the show.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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