Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Couple call time on pub

A PUB in Sonning Common has closed down but is expected to re-open quickly.

A PUB in Sonning Common has closed down but is expected to re-open quickly.

The Bird in Hand closed on Thursday last week after Roger Cox, 57, and his fiancée Kay Thomas, 50, handed it back to Enterprise Inns.

The company was hoping to have a temporary tenant in place in time for the bank holiday weekend.

Mr Cox and Ms Thomas, who took over the derelict pub in April 2010, said they quit because there weren’t enough customers.

He said: “More and more customers stay at home. Everyone has flat-screen TVs, home entertainment systems, central heating, internet, Facebook, hundreds of TV channels to choose from, cheap drink from supermarkets and easy, ready-made meals available.

“So on cold, wet evenings the incentive to get dressed, go down to the local pub and pay higher prices for all of the above is nowhere near what it used to be.”

Mr Cox, a member of the Rotary Club of Henley Bridge, said this was compounded by increasing costs, including food and drink supplies, staff wages and energy rates, so the pub had been struggling.

He said that three years ago the pub needed £5,000 per week to break even but this had now risen to more than £6,500.

“That is before paying ourselves a wage for the seven-day, 15-hour days that we tend to work,” said Mr Cox.

“I am not blaming anyone, not Enterprise Inns, not the locals for not using us more, it is just a sign of the times.”

Mr Cox said he and his partner ploughed almost all their life savings into the Peppard Road pub, which had lain derelict for two years when they took it over.

He said: “The cost for getting it up and running was massive. We hit the ground running when we opened and lost a lot of customers who complained about us being ‘expensive’ so we listened and lowered our prices.

“But when all our suppliers increase theirs, there comes a point when the sums stop working for you and you have to bail out. I don’t expect many, if any, of the people who complain about the amount of local pubs closing down would go to work and not expect to receive a wage packet at the end of it but that is what a lot of publicans do.”

Mr Cox said that despite their financial difficulties, the couple had enjoyed their time at the pub.

He said: “We fell in love with the pub, the area and most of the locals and it was a very hard and heart-wrenching decision to make when we decided to hand the business back to Enterprise Inns.

“We have lost a lot of money by doing so but we had to make the decision before things got too out of hand.

“We have made a lot of good and true friends while there and do wish to thank them and all of our customers for the support that we did receive.”

An Enterprise spokeswoman said: “We recognise that this is a highly regarded pub within the local area and are actively looking to recruit someone with experience of running a quality food establishment to drive the business forward on a longer-term basis.”

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