Landlords of a Blackburn pub fear they are going to be ‘forced out’ of their home and business if they cannot renew their lease.
Sharon and David Halstead, tenants at the Wilpshire Hotel, are asking people to support them on a Zoom call next week to ‘plan a response’ to the pub’s owners, Enterprise Inns ahead of their potential eviction.
The landlords claim they had asked Enterprise Inns to convert their tied tenancy to a ‘free of tie’ arrangement in line with the terms of the Pubs Code introduced by the government in 2015.
The Pubs Code requires companies to offer a ‘market rent’ only option so that the pub is free from beer levy charges.
If this were agreed, Sharon and Dave say it would mean the pub would have a better opportunity to be profitable when it opens.
Despite offering them a further “tied deal” only months before, they say Enterprise Inns have resorted to the Landlord and Tenancy Act, using it to their advantage to prevent Sharon and David Halstead from renewing their lease.
They say, the pub is likely to close as a result.
Sharon said: “We absolutely want to continue operating the Wilpshire Hotel, but it is only viable on a Market Rent only basis. In effect EI Group are forcing us out, and we all fully expect that they will be looking to realise a profit from a residential development at the expense of what is currently a well-used community pub.
“We are grateful for the help of the Forum of British Pubs and all those who intend to show their support, albeit on Zoom.”
Nigel Evans Member of Parliament for the Ribble Valley, said: “I do not understand why EI are being so intransigent over this local pub serving the community around Wilpshire. The best future for the Wilpshire Hotel is for it to be bought by the current tenants and for them to ensure its viability. We do not want to see this pub close and go the way of so many others and only Dave and Sharon can guarantee this.
Dave Mountford, founder of the Forum of British Pubs has been supporting Sharon and David Halstead in their campaign, engaging MP involvement to force Enterprise Inns Group to respect the intention of the Pubs Code, and has corralled the local community,, to make their feelings known and a zoom meeting is planned to plan strategy.
“The intent of the Pubs Code is clear, requiring Pubco’s to give tenants the option of a free of tie arrangement through a market rent only commitment,” said Dave.
“A tactic used by several Pubco’s however is to force out tenants through the use of the Landlord and Tenants Act, which is exactly what EI Group are trying to do with the Wilpshire Hotel.
“We have brought the matter to the attention of Parliament, who we have been pressing to force adherence to the Code to save community pubs that would be perfectly viable on Market Rent only terms, but much less so saddled with the beer levy of Pubco’s.
“In the case of the Wilpshire Hotel, profits are marginal despite the £50,000 profit for the Pubco that they collect under the beer levy.”
For anyone wishing to show their support, they can register to attend the community Zoom meeting next Thursday (February 11).
A spokesperson for Enterprise Inns said: ““The Wilpshire Hotel has come to the end of the term of its lease and under our legal obligations we have formally advised Mr and Mrs Halstead that the lease will not be renewed. It is our intention that the business will remain a pub and serve the community moving forward.”
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