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Historic pub closes after coronavirus makes it ‘unviable’ – with fears more could follow

PUBLISHED: 17:24 02 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:24 02 July 2020

Alec Williamson, owner of lager brewer Calvors and the Rampant Horse pub in Needham Market, which has been put on the market following the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Alec Williamson, owner of lager brewer Calvors and the Rampant Horse pub in Needham Market, which has been put on the market following the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: SU ANDERSON

The Rampant Horse in Needham Market has been put up for sale following the devastating impact of coronavirus, with the Suffolk brewery admitting the cost of running the pub would be “ridiculous” in the current climate.

Calvors first pub, The Rampant Horse, in Coddenham Road Needham Market, has closed down amid the pandemic. Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGECalvors first pub, The Rampant Horse, in Coddenham Road Needham Market, has closed down amid the pandemic. Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGE

The 16th century pub in Coddenham Road had planned to reopen after the lockdown is lifted, but owner Calvors Brewery said they “hung on as long as they could” and were concerned about how they could make it viable.

Alec Williamson, director of Calvors Brewery who acquired the pub in 2012, said the hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic.

MORE: ‘It’s sad to end like this’ – Popular Ipswich pub announces shock closure

He said: “Coronavirus means we would not be able to go back to the turnover that we need.

“The pubs hadn’t been working very well for us beforehand and I don’t see how we can make them viable as we would need two extra staff members to implement social distancing.”

Mr Williamson closed both the Rampant Horse and The Swan in Holbrook on the Friday before the government announced the UK lockdown – adding he had a “social responsibility” and chose to put the health of his staff first.

Now he has sold The Swan in Holbrook and is looking for a buyer for the Rampant Horse for £375,000, saying it is very sad for his team but he “continued as long as he could”, even investing his wages to keep them going.

He said: “I put both pubs on the market last summer as the brewery is my core business and I felt it was being neglected.

“However, they didn’t sell, so we kept going and got a new manager involved and were determined to make them work, but the pubs are very difficult things to run and I can’t be everywhere at once.”

When the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, Mr Williamson said he “lost everything over night”.

“I need to give my attention to one business, which is the brewery,” explained Mr Williamson. “I cannot restart three businesses all at once and I don’t see how I can make the pubs profitable.”

He said the decision has been awful and has included making seven redundancies at the Rampant Horse, some of whom have seven or eight years of service.

Mr Williamson said: “I am extremely appreciative of the staff who have worked at the pubs over the years and to the customers for their support.

He said he fears a number of other pubs will be forced to close in the coming months, adding that “screens will kill the atmosphere” and “pubs operate on social interaction”.

MORE: ‘Bring on July’ - pubs and restaurants look to re-open later this year

He said: “We are going to see a lot more closures, but I am hopeful someone will come along and buy the Rampant Horse.

“It is best suited to being a pub and has been one for the last 470 years, so I want to do my best to keep it as one.”

Mr Williamson is now going “back to his roots” and focussing on the brewery, which he said has picked up some business recently and has started selling cans.

The Rampant Horse is being marketed by Everard Cole with an asking price of £375,000 and also includes planning permission.

If you are interested you can find out more about the pub here.


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