Publican tells James O'Brien of his life-changing predicament after landlord refuses to lower rent

31 March 2020, 14:14

By Fiona Jones

This pub landlord told James O'Brien about the life-changing decision he'd have to make after the pub company have refused to lower his rent during the pandemic.

James in Pickering said he was hit with a "stark choice" the day after the Chancellor's rescue package for businesses was announced.

His landlord told him that as James was eligible to a package, and has access to a £25,000 loan on top of that, he must keep paying his rent which will be reviewed in three months.

"My choice is: do I pack my bags today, put my keys through the letterbox and take up one of the offers I've had from friends and colleagues of spare rooms... or do I build a big debt at my age in my sixties?

"Do I borrow £25,000, have to make a personal guarantee against it and pay 20% interest that my bank's asking me to pay, take the package and pay my rent for three months, get deeper in debt or pack my bags tomorrow, James?"

James pointed out that if he puts the keys through the letterbox tomorrow, he's "on the hook" for the lease still.

Chancellor set out a package for pubs, clubs and restaurants
Chancellor set out a package for pubs, clubs and restaurants. Picture: PA

"I'm sitting here and I'm going to lose my business and my home," said James, "and I really do appreciate what the Chancellor's done...but he's doing it for the wrong people. He's doing it for the companies who are going to benefit here, not the landlords."

The landlord continued that he'd have to find a new house and during this lockdown people are obviously not allowed to move house.

Locals who visit his pub have even offered him money to help him in this life-changing decision.

"The punters do understand what's going on, it's the government who don't understand that the pub companies and pub owners operate. We're the landlords, we sell a pint, we might get 90p back and the punters are paying £4 or £5 - they think I'm making that £5."

LBC's James asked the publican what he was going to do and he said he was leaning towards putting the keys through the letterbox, being in his 60s.

"This was my exit plan, my pension. I can see it all going up in smoke," he said.