MORE than 30 people have lost their jobs after the sudden closure of a country pub.
The Quince Tree in Stonor shut unexpectedly on Monday with the owner saying it was not viable.
Many staff only found about the closure when they went to work that evening or the next day. Seven of the 43 employees have been kept on temporarily.
The café at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley, which is also run by the Quince Tree, will remain open.
The business, which also included a café, farm shop and delicatessen, was opened by Bobby Yerburgh in 2012 after he bought the former Stonor Arms pub, which had been closed for four years, and refurbished and extended it.
The following year he was granted permission to extend the opening hours, despite opposition from some villagers, after warning the pub would have to close otherwise.
The business was open as normal on Monday but closed in the evening when Mr Yerburgh explained the reasons in a meeting with staff.
A spokesman said: “After lengthy consideration, a decision has been made to close the site located in Stonor for the foreseeable future.
“The decision, which has been taken with a great deal of sadness, has been made based on the financials of the business as a whole and the prospect of making Stonor profitable.
“Trading in Stonor has always been a challenge, which has not been helped by severe restrictions on opening which have hampered the ability of the site to perform to its maximum potential.”
Jack Butler, operations manager at the Quince Tree, said: “We are thankful to every customer, old and new, who has supported the pub, farm shop, café and events facilities in Stonor for the past four years.
“We are also enormously grateful to all the staff in Stonor who have worked so hard over the last few years.”
On Tuesday, delivery vans were arriving with goods while Mr Butler held meetings with staff.
There were two chalkboard signs outside the front of the building saying the business had closed and the car park gates were locked.
Martin Hall, who lives near the pub, said one member of staff had parked his BMW in the drive of a house.
He said: “A neighbour rushed over to him to ask him to move it and he replied that he had turned up for work and been handed a redundancy notice. The staff obviously had no idea.”
Suzy Groeliker, who was group operations manager for the company, was upset after attending the meeting on Monday.
Ms Groeliker, 30, from High Wycombe, said: “Bobby read out a statement which said, regrettably, he could no longer fund it and it was closing with immediate effect.
“Nobody had an inkling. I was part of the team which should have known and I didn’t.
“Every single person was in shock. We were told initially we could ask questions then told we could not.
“I had a meeting on Tuesday with Jack and Bobby. I was not allowed to park in the car park. The meeting was just a formality and very unhelpful.
“I have got a mortgage to pay and all sorts of life commitments. I was part of the operations team with three people, Jack and an executive chef, and feel we could have been given further time to find another job.”
The Quince Tree spokesman said: “During this transitional period we have retained seven members of staff, plus accountants, to ensure that all employees and suppliers at Stonor are paid correctly.
“We also have a number of vacancies within our sites at Clifton Nurseries [in London] and the River & Rowing Museum, which continue to operate normally.
“It is clearly hugely sad and regrettable that we have been forced to close the Stonor site for the time being and it should also be noted that over four years we have employed many more people than those leaving us who have thrived and gone on to further employment.
“We have also supported local farmers and businesses and have hosted numerous charitable events.
“As to the future, there are no firm proposals for the site but we will be looking at all possible options.”
Thomas Dunn, chairman of Pishill with Stonor Parish Council, said: “We’re very appreciative of the Quince Tree and the investment, time and effort they put into it to try to make it work.
“We hope they will find someone to take it on going forward. I think the vast majority of local residents were supportive of it. When it was left empty for years, that was not welcome.”
Customers posted comments online about their disappointment at the closure.
Cassie Sissons, from Henley, said: “What a shame, one of our favourite places.”
Jo Feat, from Henley, wrote: “Devastated — love this place.”
Linda Blackmore, from Oxford, said: “What sad news. We loved the Quince Tree and went often. Such a lovely location. We will miss going there.”
Prior to re-opening the pub, Mr Yerburgh, the son of Lord and Lady Alvingham, said running multiple businesses on the site made “the pub model more viable”.
He also said local support was crucial to the success of the business.