Mixed fortunes for two other pubs’ community buy-out plans
Woodstock’s only Good Beer Guide listed pub, the Black Prince, is closing down today having been sold to a new owner with its future uncertain. Locals have heard that the privately owned property could become a restaurant or gastro-pub, but a lengthy period of closure is expected with the character of the pub probably changed beyond recognition.
Meanwhile villagers in nearby Yarnton are pushing ahead with a community buy-out campaign for the Red Lion, closed last August when landlady Kerry Osborne reached the end of her tenancy agreement with Admiral Taverns. Admiral also owns the Crown in Marcham, near Abingdon, also closed last summer, where villagers have failed to get the pub listed as an Asset of Community Value by White Horse district council.
News of the Black Prince’s demise has provoked an outpouring of sadness, with over 70 supportive comments on Facebook as of today. Staff had produced an emotional statement given out to customers and posted on Facebook, saying: “We have recently been advised that the business has been sold and the new owners will be closing it for the foreseeable future. It is believed that the pub will open again, although we have no information on if or when this will happen.
“We are all very shocked and saddened that our journey together must come to an end and would like to say thank you to everyone who has ever been in to visit us. It’s the community that made us as popular as we are, and we share the sadness of the community in this news. If we have given you great food, great service and made you feel welcome then we have done our jobs. We were never just a pub. We were a home to many people.
“To all our customers, with two legs or four, we can only say you have all been wonderful and have given us many happy memories. You will be missed beyond measure. We hope to see as many of you as possible before the doors close, the chairs are put up and the candles blown out for one final time.”
The pub, on the main A44 road outside the town centre, has a car park and garden seating beside the River Glyme making it very attractive for locals and passing traffic alike. It is widely regarded as the last locals’ pub in a town where tourism is the main activity, with most of the other pubs being run by large chains or part of hotels. The Black Prince is also rated as the top restaurant in Woodstock by TripAdvisor with over 450 reviews.
“This is just the worst news,” reads one Facebook post. “The BP is one of the last of the real pubs and loved by the locals. When you have a winning formula thanks to the brilliant staff at the BP, why change it? The roaring fires in the winter, the garden in the summer, the delicious down to earth food and excellently kept beer. West Oxfordshire is awash with ‘gastro pubs’. We don’t need any more.”
Support has also come from another Woodstock pub, the Arkells’-owned Punchbowl, where Tony Viney wrote on Facebook: “So sad to see a pub close. Even worse when it’s a terrific one embraced by the community it serves. Craig – you and your team leave a legacy to be proud of and I know from the customers we share, you and the pub will be sorely missed.”
Things are looking more positive for the Red Lion in Yarnton where villager Leanne Charlett, who grew up in the pub when her parents ran it, is leading a community buy-out campaign to raise the £425,000 asking price. She has launched a Facebook page, “Save the Red Lion Yarnton”, and the group has received a £550 grant from the parish council. It hopes to win support from charity the Plunkett Foundation.
While the Red Lion is subject to an Asset of Community Value order giving the group six months to raise the cash to make a bid, villagers in Marcham have had no such luck seeking an ACV for the Crown. White Horse district council declined the listing saying it needed evidence of community support for the pub in the five years leading up to closure, but the community group may appeal. Admiral’s asking price is again £425,000. The Crown closed last summer and was the last pub in the village.