Sell off forces Sherborne pub to call time
SHERBORNE’S pub scene has suffered another blow with a third premises set to close in less than three months.
The Crown Inn on Greenhill is up for sale just 16 months after landlords Malcolm and Carol Clewer took over.
The town has already lost the Britannia Inn off Westbury and the Cross Keys on Cheap Street since April.
The decision to sell the Crown, made by building owner Punch Taverns, has already had an impact on trade according to Mrs Clewer.
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She said: “We feel totally let down by Punch. We were told to surrender the lease because they had decided ours was one of the pubs they wanted to get rid of and sell on.
“Everyone is asking why we’ve had to put it up for sale. We’ll be left without jobs and without a home.”
Mrs Clewer said they had invested a lot of money in the business.
She said: “We feel like we haven’t been given a fair crack of the whip. There’s no point appealing the decision, but we will be open for business and serving food just as normal.”
Mrs Clewer said pub landlords faced difficulties regardless of their takings.
She said: “You just can’t win. If you don’t make enough money, they want to close you down, and if you are successful you face a rise in your rent.”
Dave Harris, chairman for the West Dorset branch of Campaign for Real Ale, said it was a familiar story.
He said: “There is a perfect storm of factors affecting pubs; beer duty is putting up prices above inflation year on year, the recession is leaving less money in people’s pockets and there is predatory pricing of cheap alcohol by supermarkets. Sadly the promise of a well-kept pint does not seem to be sufficient now to guarantee survival except for a few iconic pubs.”
The news follows the closure of the Britannia Inn last month. Despite a petition of more than 200 supporters landlords John McLoughlin and Sue Payne said they were priced out by a 40 per cent hike in rent from building owners Admiral Taverns.
Mr McLoughlin, the pub’s landlord since 2008, said the last week of trading was emotional, particularly when regulars clubbed together for a surprise farewell party.
The couple are now moving to Templecombe and taking stock of their lives.
Mr McLoughlin said: “We just need a break now to decide what we are going to do next. We would like to be associated with the pub trade in the future but we also want to make money too.”
The Cross Keys, owned by Marston’s, also closed its doors in April after Dorset Police took steps to shut it down.
Ollie Wilson, landlord of the Digby Tap on Cooks Lane said: “It is sad to see them go. Luckily we have a niche and cater across a broad spectrum of ages. I think if you’re a bit different then you will be OK. But I have noticed there are slightly less people about.”
A spokesman for Marston’s said the company was still reviewing its options for the Cross Keys.
Admiral Taverns has listed the Britannia Inn as to let on its website with a starting rent of £18,000.
Punch Taverns confirmed the Crown was up for sale but declined to comment further.