LANDLORDS of a closure-threatened pub are trying to rally as many people as possible to attend a virtual meeting to support them so they can still stay in charge.

Tenants Sharon and David Halstead. from the Wilpshire Hotel, Whalley Road, Wilpshire, had approached owners Enterprise Inns (EI Group) to change their lease.

They said it was necessary to keep the pub viable during difficult times for industry with coronavirus shutdowns massively affecting turnover.

They tried to convert their tied tenancy to a ‘free of tie’ arrangement in line with the terms of the Pubs Code, which requires the pub operators to offer a ‘market rent’-only option to tenant landlords and landladies.

In doing so, the couple said, the pub is freed from the beer levy charged by the pub company and has a better opportunity to be profitable.

Enterprise Inns has used the Landlord and Tenancy Act to stop the couple from renewing their lease and at present they say they will be evicted in March.

Sharon Halstead said: “We absolutely want to continue operating the Wilpshire Hotel, but it is only viable on a market rent-only basis.

“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.”

Dave Mountford, founder of the Forum of British Pubs, has been supporting Sharon and David in their campaign and wants local people to to make their feelings known through a Zoom demonstration on Thursday night.

He added: “The intent of the Pubs Code is clear, requiring pub companies to give tenants the option of a free of tie arrangement through a market rent only commitment.

"However, a tactic used by several companies 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 pub companies.

“In the case of the Wilpshire Hotel, profits are marginal despite the £80,000 profit for the PubCo that they collect under the beer levy.”

A spokesperson for the company 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.”