'It is really sad': End of an era as popular pub landlords call time
- Credit: Mick Howes
There was sadness as the bell echoed out at a popular pub as a couple called last orders for the final time.
For the past five-and-a-half years Sue and Terry Willgoss have been landlords of The Carlton public house in Lowestoft.
But they expressed sadness this week as the beer lines were cleaned and the friendly local family-run pub was cleared ahead of closure - with a decision still to be made on its future.
With the building owned by the Carr family, after popular businessman Billy Carr - himself a former landlord of The Carlton Pub - died in September 2020, they have supported the Willgoss family and been understanding of the decision.
Mrs Willgoss, who campaigns to raise awareness of mental health after her son Danny lost the battle with his mental health difficulties on June 17, 2018, said it was "really sad" as they had called last orders for the final time.
Mrs Willgoss said: "It is really sad as we've had some lovely times here.
"Sadly though it's not a situation that we could carry on with.
"We feel sad for the customers.
"But the reality is that takings are down and lower than ever, the brewery prices are all going up and we still have bills to pay - we did not want to end up in debt.
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"This last year, particularly the last six months, the takings have been down and with the same bills, we felt it was time to go.
"We told the Carr family we'd stay through Christmas and New Year's Eve - but December was probably the worst month with people worrying about Omicron."
After a special ticketed event for a limited number of guests on New Year's Eve, Mrs Willgoss said: "We had a great last night at the pub with lovely friends.
"We will miss you all but look forward to joining you all the other side of the bar.
"A huge thank you goes to all our customers, fellow landlords and landladies many of whom have become such special friends.
"You’ve helped us through the worst time of our lives but had some really great times too and many lovely memories made, which will stay with us forever.
"We really appreciate every single one of you."
With the coronavirus lockdowns affecting routines it has sparked a rise in people creating bars in their own homes and drinking more at home.
Mr Willgoss said: "A number times I have looked out and the street has been deserted, people are not coming out as much."
Mrs Willgoss added: "We had managed OK up to the last year, but we have not got any staff and not taken a wage.
"When the restrictions allowed table service to be run we were doing OK, as we linked in with Heils Bakery in Lowestoft and had sausage rolls, Cornish pasties and other food available.
"We used to regularly order 11 or 12 barrels a week, but over the last few months we've been lucky if we ordered three - some weeks, nothing.
"That's how far it has gone."
This week the couple were continuing to clear the venue. Mrs Willgoss said: "We've been cleaning the lines, getting everything ready and cleared so if anyone wants to come in they can.
"The building is not our building, it is owned by the Carr family, who totally understand the decision but the family are still undecided on what to do."
The pub, which historically was referred to as the Carlton Hotel on London Road South with a "licensed victualler" in 1911, is described as a "large two bar street corner pub on the main road into Lowestoft."
Mrs Willgoss added: "We've made some lovely friends and over time our customers - a real group of them - have become good friends.
"We are local people and they were just sad we were going."
Having first worked in a pub at The Ship Inn in Pakefield when she was 18, Mrs Willgoss has worked at various venues since then and was previously manager at the Lady of the Lake.
Discussing the end of an era, she said: "It's all really sad - but now we are preparing for a new chapter."