A couple battling to change the fortunes of a Belper pub say trade has been hit hard - after brewery Marston’s put up for sale signs.
David Andrews and Betty Laverty took up a five-year agreement on the Fisherman’s Rest in Broadholme Lane, Belper, in June, 2013. However, they claim they had only been at the helm for 12 weeks when they were informed it was being put on the market.
The announcement came as they tried to rebuild the business after the previous leaseholder was prosecuted for breaching food safety rules - a fact they claim they were not told about before moving in.
After a deep clean the premises was given a four-star (out of five) food hygiene rating and trade had been steadying.
However, the for sale signs have seen trade slump again, they claim. And the pair will only receive a maximum of three months’ notice as part of their agreement if pub owner Marston’s sells the business on to new leaseholders.
Mr Andrews, 54, said: “Before all the stuff about the hygiene under the previous incumbent came out we had built it up from nothing. Then the business just plummeted.
“After we made it clear it was under new management it did pick up again, but not to where it was previously.
“Now there are for sale signs up and it’skicked the back out of the business again. People see the signs and avoid the pub like the plague.
“They drive up, slow down and see the signs and then carry on. We wouldn’t have taken a five-year agreement if we knew this was going to happen.”
“We have ploughed a lot of money into this – all my capital is tied up in it. And my 80-year-old mother is also living here and it means we may all be left with just weeks to move out.”
Cromford licensee Dave Mountford, of the GMB Union, is attempting to raise the profile of the situation at the Fisherman’s on behalf of David and Betty. He has written to Business, Innovation and Skills Minister Jenny Willott MP – an outspoken critic of pub companies – asking for support.
He said: “David has attempted to engage with Marston’s throughout 2014 to no avail.
“He and his family have run out of financial support and have got into arrears on rent and drink.”
Phil Barnett, operations director for Marston’s said: “We are in discussion with Mr Andrews and anticipate this will be resolved imminently.
“These are however not all the facts of this situation, that is between Mr Andrews and the company.”