The five pubs that revealed plans to close at the same time - where are they now?

PUBLISHED: 07:48 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:22 18 July 2019

From left to right clock wise, the Brickmakers, the Britannia Gardens, the Woodman, the Garden House and the York Tavern. Photo: Denise Bradley, James Bass, Simon Finlay, Submitted and Jamie Honeywood.

From left to right clock wise, the Brickmakers, the Britannia Gardens, the Woodman, the Garden House and the York Tavern. Photo: Denise Bradley, James Bass, Simon Finlay, Submitted and Jamie Honeywood.


It’s not an easy time for publicans.

Davina Tanner OBE, chief executive of Britannia Enterprises. Credit: Matt Keal/Matt Keal PhotographyDavina Tanner OBE, chief executive of Britannia Enterprises. Credit: Matt Keal/Matt Keal Photography

From 2010 to 2017, 145 pubs around Norfolk closed, according to Office for National Statistics figures, and the precarious position of many watering holes is no secret.

But in September last year, their plight gained particular attention when five landlords in Norwich announced plans to step down within a month of each other.

All were run by Ei Publican Partnerships, with four of the five citing breakdowns in lease and rent talks as the reason.

It sparked a debate over the strain faced by landlords, particularly those in 'tied' pubs - ones run by pub companies.

The Brickmakers pub. Photo: Denise BradleyThe Brickmakers pub. Photo: Denise Bradley

Since then, one of the five managed to avoid closure, while the remaining four did shut their doors, but have since reopened - two with temporary landlords.

Ei has said they are committed to "operating great pub in the heart of their communities" around the country - and Norwich is no different.

We've taken a look at what has happened to the pubs since.

The Woodman Pub on North Walsham Road. Photo: Simon FinlayThe Woodman Pub on North Walsham Road. Photo: Simon Finlay

- York Tavern

In September, the team at the York Tavern, on Leicester Street in the Golden Triangle, announced they planned to soon step down after they were unable to reach an agreement on the lease with Ei.

And at the start of 2019 they did, with Russell Evans, pub operator, saying it was a "travesty".

But six months later, at the start of June, it was announced that the pub would reopen, still under Ei, with new publicans running it on a short-term lease.

The Garden House in Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodThe Garden House in Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

And earlier this month, Ei said they were in talks with a new publican about a long-term agreement.

It came as Steve Wiseman, a former customer, said he had asked residents in the area if they would be interested in running it as a community pub.

He and 12 others have now applied to register it as an Asset of Community Value, but will be unable to pursue their dream of one day purchasing the pub unless Ei lists it for sale, which it has in the past said it does not want to do.

- Brickmakers

Fears of the Brickmakers closure arguably created the most waves, with a petition set up to keep it open attracting more than 17,000 signatures.

In September, the popular music venue's landlords said they were faced with a "crippling" 12pc rent increase, which would have forced them to close.

The community, and music lovers all over the city, rallied around the pub, and it was later listed as an Asset of Community Value in a bid to afford it greater protection.

A Friends group was also set up to boost the pub's income.

On Friday, Charley South, landlord at the Brickmakers, confirmed they had, after much negotiation, signed a new five-year lease for the pub, giving them some much-needed certainty.

"We are really relieved," she said, "and we're grateful for the support, the public have been awesome."

She urged people to make sure they visited their local pub, and added: "In five years we'll be doing this again, so we need to be supported to show that we are sustainable, and there is a reason to keep us here."

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- Garden House

In October, the Pembroke Road pub closed after former landlord Oscar Gerdes said he was not granted a new lease with Ei.

At the time, he said it was a "very difficult" period for him and his customers.

It was later revealed that it would be turned into a Craft Union watering hole, another pub company which comes under the Ei umbrella.

And in February this year it reopened, having been renovated.

Tanya Childs, landlord, said things had been going well, and that they had enjoyed a strong Easter period.

She said rebranding as a sports bar had proved a success, with a lack of other similar venues nearby.

- Gibraltar Gardens (now Britannia Gardens)

In the same month, the team at the Gibraltar Gardens, in Heigham Street, said they planned to close after negotiations broke down.

On Facebook, they said they had enjoyed their time at the pub and had worked hard to build trade up since its last closure.

In November last year, it was revealed the pub would be reopened by the social enterprise behind the popular Café Britannia.

It became the fifth venue for Britannia Enterprises, and was renamed Britannia Gardens.

Davina Tanner, chief executive of the social enterprise, said the last few months had been a learning curve and that, while they were enjoying the new challenge, it had proved trying.

"Trade is tough, and there are a lot of reasons for that out of our control," she said. "Brexit, the minimum wage going up, along with pension contributions and supplier costs. The weather hasn't helped - if it was like last year we'd have the gardens busy seven days a week, but it is harder when it's good one day and bad the next.

"It's very different running a pub to a café, and that's been quite a steep learning curve."

She said it was key that business owners received some clarity on Brexit, and said she feared everyone would be cautious until then.

But she said she was keen to give credit to Ei, who she said had been "supportive, open and transparent" since they arrived.

The pub was a finalist in the newcomer of the year award category at Ei's annual awards last month.

- The Woodman

When The Woodman landlord Darren Reilly confirmed he would be leaving on September 28 last year, he said he had reached a mutual agreement with Ei, which did not centre on lease or rent negotiations.

But in January, he said he had been handed an £18,000 bill for "repairs not completed" - almost £15,000 more than he anticipated.

Today, the pub, on North Walsham Road, is reopened with a temporary landlord, and Ei says they are still looking for a permanent operator for the pub.

MORE: 'It's a turnaround' - pub that faced closure scoops award

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