The Covid-19 pandemic was the final nail in the coffin for The Old House at Home in Cleckheaton, according to publicans Will and Gemma Frew.
After taking on the lease in 2014 when the building was in disrepair, the couple said they had acquired thousands of pounds' worth of debt due to the roof collapsing and damp problems, investing their own savings into staying afloat.
Despite this, Mr Frew said the pub's owners, Ei Group, cared "little" for the problems they were experiencing with the rising cost of repairs needed.
Mr Frew, 52, said: “Covid-19 hasn’t caused most of the problems, it’s just highlighted how the big Pubcos treat their licensees, and it will continue unless they are made to change.
"A manager at Ei said he had done everything he could for us, yet after nearly six years of hard work we are still left in debt. We know our story is far from the worst situation publicans are in and we are hoping we can get all of our stories heard."
The couple told The Yorkshire Post the mounting problems were posing risks to the public, citing one occasion where a tile fell from the roof nearly hitting a customer.
"There was water leaking in the kitchen next to the cooker, which was creating mould. In all, the problems were a huge hazard. Ei Group just didn't really care. The only time they helped out was when I told them I was ill and couldn't sort the problems out myself."
Their MP, Labour's Tracy Brabin, has now called for an immediate review of the Pubs Code and plans to raise Mr and Mrs Frew's case in Parliament when it reopens next month, stressing the important role pubs play as hubs for communities.
"Pubs are really important community hubs and our community has sadly lost a very popular one in The Old House at Home," the Batley & Spen MP said.
"With better legislation around protecting and supporting licensees, Will and Gemma’s situation could have been dramatically different, and we would not be having another struggling small business go under during this awful pandemic.”
A spokesman for Ei Group said the pub would remain open for the time present.
“We are somewhat surprised by the comments made as we have worked with Mr and Mrs Frew throughout their tenancy, investing over £42K in the property over the last few years. Following lockdown, the couple advised us they did not want to reopen the pub and we assisted with an early termination of their agreement, which ran until September 2020, without penalty.
“The business received £25,000 in Government grants towards fixed costs, including rent, in addition to which we provided £2,000 of credit to their trade account between April and June and an additional rent credit of 75 per cent in July to assist with reopening, as well as crediting the value of any unbroached beer. Business rates were suspended by Government until 2021 and, dependent on status, self-employed publicans have been entitled to additional Government grants.
“We also granted our tied tenants a 50 per cent rent credit in August and last week announced a further 40 per cent rent credit for the month of September.
"This brings the total support offered to our tied tenants throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to over £32.5 million. With 96 per cent of our publicans open and trading we continue to support the increasingly few who have been unable to do so, primarily as a result of their trading format, and are delighted that The Old House at Home is now in a position to reopen.”
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today.
Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers.
So, please - if you can - pay for our work. Just £5 per month is the starting point. If you think that which we are trying to achieve is worth more, you can pay us what you think we are worth. By doing so, you will be investing in something that is becoming increasingly rare. Independent journalism that cares less about right and left and more about right and wrong. Journalism you can trust.
James Mitchinson (Editor)