MORE than 50 people attended a virtual meeting to rally behind the tenants of a pub who could be evicted in March.

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

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.

EI 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 People from as far away as France logged into the meeting on Thursday night and Sharon and David are now seeing legal advice from specialists in licensing laws.

Their MP Nigel Evans said: “I do not understand why EI are being so intransigent over this local pub serving the community.

“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.”

Stephen Hughes, licensee and founder of Blackburn and Darwen Pubs (Past and Present) Facebook group said: “The Wilpshire Hotel has always been a popular local community pub, I enjoyed many a Christmas Day evening in there in the 1990s when visiting friends in the area.

“It was still owned by Whitbread at that point.

“Back in the day, it was also the start or finish point for those who wanted to partake in an extended length of the Revidge Run, the former pub crawl that took in many pubs which are sadly now permanently closed.

“In 2016, the same pubco who own the Wilpshire Hotel closed and sold off to Co-op the Bulls Head around half a mile away.

“Prior to that, they also sold off the Hare and Hounds at Lammack which is now a thriving independently owned community pub, but could have easily been lost for probable demolition and housing use.

“The current tenants at the Wilpshire Hotel have been doing a great job trying to keep their business going during the lockdown with the offering of a popular takeaway food service.

“The pubco should be supporting them with their future ambitions for the pub post-Covid, as ultimately both parties will share the success.”

Meanwhile a Facebook group trying to rally support behind the couple called Save the Wilpshire Hotel is gathering momentum with more than 850 members.

A spokesperson for the Enterprise Inns 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.”