A FORMER licensee has blamed a brewery for killing his award-winning business by increasing the rent “so much”.
Phil Harland and partner Raph Boydell, formerly of The Plough Inn at Christleton, invested almost £100,000 of their own money but became victims of their own success.
Over their four-year tenure they increased turn-over from £3,000 to £12,500 a week but say pub company Scottish and Newcastle responded by putting up the weekly rent to more than £1,700.
The brewery, however, says they leased The Plough to an independent business person to run as their own and “financial aspects of the business are their responsibility”.
Phil and Raph, whose hostelry was last year named the best gastropub in the UK, closed the pub at the end of March after finding they could not make any money once wages and other costs were deducted.
The pub lease has been taken on by Peter Wilkinson of The Cherry Orchard Inn at Boughton and will reopen following a refurbishment.
Phil said: “We were aware of potential problems but really it’s down to the brewery. They increased their rent so much that by the time we had finished it wasn’t viable any more.”
Phil, who previously ran The Victoria in Chester with Raph, added: “I suspect the horrible truth is they find new tenants, get a new source of money and after 18 months to two years they start all over again.”
Phil said relations with the brewery became “messy” towards the end of their association with The Plough. He and his partner will miss the regulars.
“It was a real community pub,” said Phil, who has heard that Waverton is “in mourning” since the pub closed.
He will return to his former profession teaching modern languages while partner Raph has been ill after developing diabetes and will be “taking it easy for a bit”.
Phil explained that the pub had also been tied to the brewery meaning they had to buy all their beers from Scottish and Newcastle.
“When we won the gastro award they never once got in touch or phoned up to say congratulations.”
The pair were commended by judges for going “that extra distance”, providing top class food – much of it home-grown or reared at the premises – while sustaining a wonderful traditional pub atmosphere.
A brewery spokesperson said: "The Plough is a tenanted pub operated by Pub Enterprises but leased to an independent business person to run as their own. As such, financial aspects of the business are their responsibility.”
"The pub has run as a successful business for a number of years, winning several awards. Recently, however, we have had to take the unusual action of seeking repossession of the premises due to unpaid debts, despite working with the lessees to find a suitable solution.”
"Now a new lessee has been appointed and we hope that, under their management, the Plough will become a successful business once more which will provide the local community with the service they have come to expect and enjoy."