Battling to stay independent

Published on: 26 Jan 2018

ANNA Gorman emerged from her day in court challenging EI Group’s plans to turn The Prince of Wales pub into a company-managed hostelry, relieved but still awaiting the final judgement.

“It’s positive in that the judge didn’t find against us and has taken all the information away and will make a decision by the end of the week," said Anna, who is battling to keep the Gloucester Road pub independent.

“I want to thank everybody who’s given their support, fundraising, and for all those who turned up in court today. It’s been 18 months of hell, but nobody can do any more now."

The future of the distinctive pub has been under threat since a change in regulations in 2016 meant that pubs had to get rid of the controversial ‘beer ties’ that forced pubs to buy their beer from the owners of the building. In response more of the larger brewery chains started bringing in their own house managers, including EI Group (formerly known as Enterprise Inns).

Anna, who’s rented the Prince of Wales from the brewery for 15 years, was due to hand back the pub in December 2016, but has had a year’s reprieve to fight in the courts to get a new lease for the pub. 

A crowdfunding campaign and events raised £13,000 to cover a portion of the estimated £40,000 legal fees, but Anna has had to borrow the rest. If she loses then the judge could also make her liable for costs, something that is of great concern to the mother of three: 

“We’ve got our arguments and they have their argument. There are two sides to this story but I’m the one who’s been under stress.

“When I took on the lease it had 20 years to go and I had four years on that. I spent about £60,000 on upgrading the facilities. 

“I’m certainly not going to hand the keys back without a fight. I’ve been contacted by other landlords in the same situation - this is happening all over the country. I just want people to know what’s going on and support their local pubs. It’s just wrong - they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this.”

Anna is the first landlord in the country to fight EI Group on its new stance. If she loses the court case the judge may give her the opportunity to appeal, which will mean a future battle. However, if she wins there will be celebrations all round.

“If we win we will either give the money back or have a massive party!” said Anna.

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