A long-serving Chester landlord will consider selling up if a vacant neighbouring chapel is converted into student accommodation.
Mike Mercer, licensee of The Albion Inn for the last 42 years, is worried about a planning application by Blueoak Estates/Pentith Ltd to transform the Welsh Congregational Chapel further along Albion Street into a house of multiple occupation.
Options have been left open as to whether it could be five luxury apartments or pods for a maximum of 20 young professionals or students or a hostel for about 50 people.
The scheme has been unsettling for the small urban community made up of Victorian terraced homes.
“I have no intentions of having a pub full of students,” said Mr Mercer, whose wife Christina has organised a public meeting, along with local resident John Bottomley, to be held in the pub on Monday, September 7 at 7pm.
Asked if he would sell up if students moved in, Mr Mercer responded: “There’s a possibility, yes. I’m 76 next time. I mean, why not? I would sell the lease.”
Mr Mercer says he is already disturbed by students after they have been drinking in nearby Off the Wall pub on a Monday night.
“You can hear them banging away down there when I’m in bed,” he added.
Pubs are 'struggling'
Mr Mercer expects his comments will attract criticism because he has publicly spoken about how traditional pubs are struggling and yet here he is 'turning down' revenue but he doesn’t want his pub to become a student haunt.
He commented: “It would change The Albion beyond all recognition. If you thought along the money lines, you could say don’t know what he’s moaning about because on the one hand he’s saying times are hard and then he’s turning down potential customers.
“But we don’t sell shots, we don’t sell craft beers, we don’t sell all the products that Off the Wall would sell,” added Mr Mercer, who employs students behind the bar.
“I’m the first one to say that all students aren’t the same. You might only have a small group of six or eight people who are trouble-makers. That’s all you need in a street this size.”
Mr Mercer, who is only open to regulars on race days, went on: “You know my attitude towards race-goers. You’d have a pub full of race-goers, students. These people in the alms houses next door, the old people, have said to me they are terrified that I would leave here and it evolved into something else.”
Developer Steve Roberts told The Chronicle previously that he understands ambiguity over the number and nature of end users in the proposed accommodation had caused concern among locals.
“They have a point saying they want certainty,” said Mr Roberts, but argued maintaining ‘flexible’ plans was necessary to ensure the scheme was ultimately viable. “It’s getting the design right and getting the end user right.”
Looking at the building, he added: “Something has got to be done, it’s slowly deteriorating.”