A landlord who has run his pub for 16 years feels he’s ‘lost everything’ after he says he was given no option to continue as landlord in a renewal of leases with the company behind the watering hole.
Brent Taylor, 63, has run the White Lion Hotel in Rawtenstall for 16 years. He ran the pub with his wife Ann until she died due to Covid-19 18 months ago.
And now, after a renewal of leases by pub company Stonegate Group, he feels he has been given ‘no option’ to continue as landlord and has ‘lost everything’. The White Lion Hotel is a community-led pub which Brent says he could run ‘blindfolded’. They host a long list of clubs there weekly, including a quiz team and pool teams.
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But since Brent’s announcement that he is being ‘forced to leave’, regulars at the pub have started petitions to do what they can to keep Brent as landlord.
Speaking to LancsLive, Brent said: “The end of my lease is September but we had to amend the lease part way through because we were struggling and in order to get a discount on our beers, we had to sign out of the landlords and tenants act so they could give us better prices for our beers. But they didn’t give us the option to stay on after the lease was over. “
Brent says that typically the lease would have an ‘automatic offer’ to continue running the pub, but that this was removed when they signed for discounts on the beer. He said: “Normally on the lease, you get an automatic offer to re-do your lease, but with the Landlord and Tenant Act it didn’t give us that right.”
Brent says he has been given no explanation as to why he now has to leave the pub. He said: “My wife died 18 months ago because of Covid and I’ve been on my own. So it might be the fact I’m on my own now that they want me out. There were no negotiations of rent or anything like that, its just a case of they want me out and they won’t tell me what’s going on. “
He’s been given an end-date of September 26 and said the lack of explanation has left him really upset. His customers di lui have since threatened to ‘boycott’ the pub after he’s left-but he insists he doesn’t want to leave.
“All my customers are up in arms and upset about it, they said they’re going to boycott the pub, but I don’t want to go, I want to stop. I’ve been here for sixteen years, we have as a couple, I’m two years away from retirement. It’s like my life’s ended, do you know what I mean? “
Brent’s wife, Ann, died in October 2020 after contracting Covid-19. The couple ran the pub together and since Ann passed away, a corner and memorial garden has been made for her.
“I’ve got loads of memories here,” Brent said, “I feel wrong leaving her behind. She was my life and I’m really upset and heartbroken at all, it isn’t something I should be going through now.”
“I’m going to have to look for somewhere else to live and another business that I can take all my customers to.”
Brent hoped to retire aged 66 and do the things he had always wanted to do. Now he faces finding somewhere else to live as well as finding a new mode of income. He’s adamant Stonegate are ‘making a huge mistake’.
He said he put in an offer this week to buy the pub but he was told it was not for sale and had already been sold. He added: “They haven’t explained anything at all, it was a matter of, you’ve come to the end of your lease and you’ve got to leave.”
Brent said he would be unable to run the pub up until the point of the September end date due to the haul of moving out both his house and his business. He lives and trades at The White Lion and ‘owns all of the wines and spirits’ sold to customers. He said it would take him over a month to move out, ‘not a day’.
Stonegate took over from Enterprise Inns, with Brent and Ann signing a 10 year lease which was intended to run until 2024. The White Lion has since become a beloved spot for its regulars where there is ‘no need for a jukebox’ because everybody is talking to each other.
“This pub was always a very busy pub but since Rawtenstall has bars and shops popping up its become a vibrant town center, but we’re at the other end of town, everything that’s happening in town is away from me. I’m on a limb at the other end of town on my own, so our footfall depends on local community custom – which they (Stonegate) won’t have. “
Brent pointed out that if Stonegate intended to run the pub to serve food, there are no car parking spaces on the premises to enable the footfall as well as the potential staff they would need to keep up a kitchen and further hospitality. He also said he could not understand if the chain would replace him with a manager due to the added expense.
“I pay all the bills here, its my business and I pay everything, so I can’t understand why they’d pay a manager a wage and then bills as well. Gas and electric, they’re through the roof right now, and rates and water rates. All the maintenance of the building, I pay for it. “
“I don’t want to go,” he said. “I built this pub up for the local community, its a nice pub and there’s never been any police in here, the whole time I’ve been here. Not once.”
Customers of the White Lion voiced their support of Brent when he announced the news on Facebook. Sammy Southwood wrote: “At this time when so many pubs are dead or have no soul, whenever you go to the White Lion it’s always busy and has a great atmosphere, and you always greet everyone by name, ask how they are etc. A bizarre decision. I don’t know a better community pub, unless they want to make it a soulless chain like everywhere else. “
Joanne Caroll added: “Absolutely shocking behavior Brent, you are the heart of the pub. With everything that has been thrown at you over the last couple of years and yet you still keep opening the doors and welcoming everyone, I can’t believe they would reach a decision like this. I know we’ve not been in as much this last year with everything I’ve had going on but we will continue to support you in anyway we can. I sadly think it will end up just another boarded up old pub once the heart of the place has been ripped out! I really hope they reconsider this disgraceful decision. “
Brent continued: “Everybody is really upset about it because they know I do a really good job here. The beer is fantastic, I clean the lines like I should do. If somebody else comes in here, they’re not going to bother like I do, because I’ve always been like that. I like to be proud of what I’m doing. “
He added that Stonegate ‘should have known’ the decision would have caused upset. He added: “All my customers are my friends, I know exactly what they want when they come through the door. I’ve never missed paying my rent, I’ve never missed paying my bills, I don’t owe anything to anyone .
“I’ve always paid what I’ve needed to pay. I’m an honest landlord but it feels like I’ve been so betrayed now. There were no negotiations whatsover. I want to stop here and that’s it. It’s my home . “
LancsLive has contacted Stonegate Group for comment but received no response.