Gareth Kavanagh said he has been forced to hand in the keys for the Lass O’Gowrie in Manchester, just months after he won a two-year battle against Greene King for a reduction in his rent.
He said after the rent reduction was agreed in August Greene King enacted the minimum purchase clause in the lease making him fully-tied and said it would charge him for a full dilapidations survey, in a move Kavanagh described as “punitive”, “cold” and “brutal”.
“If you really want to hurt a little business then the time to do it is just when we’re at the end of a two-year rent battle, have no profit in the business, and you say by the way we’re now going to demand £40,000 of work to be done in the pub,” he told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser.
“They have acted completely in line with the terms of the lease but they have been cold and brutal and hard. There was no real appetite to save us.”
Kavanagh, who has been at the pub for nearly nine years, fought for a reduction in his rent after his annual turnover dropped by 40% to around £400,000 in 2011, which he attributes in part to the closure of the nearby BBC Manchester broadcasting house.
Despite winning the GBPA accolade in 2012, he said Greene King said the drop in turnover meant he was a below-average operator and the pub should be making £500,000.
“When all this was going on I said to them, do you not think it will be embarrassing to see the champion pub go to the wall? I was told quite brutally that it would be akin to being stung by a wasp – painful but not fatal,” Kavanagh continued.
“If they can do that to us and say we don’t care about any of the major awards that you’ve won, you are a below average operator, then frankly what chance does anyone who doesn’t have an award? They don’t have any chance – they’ll just be flannel.”
Kavanagh will be leaving the pub on 6 January and said he expects there will be “significant financial penalties” in surrendering the lease. He added that he would be looking for work but would need to be given “a phenomenal deal” to work for a leased or tenanted pub company again.
“But you know what, I’ve learnt a lot. It’s been a wonderful ride, I’ve met some great people, I think we’ve made a little difference to our patch and we’re going to go on and do different and interesting things – it just won’t be at the Lass O’Gowrie,” he said.
A Greene King spokesperson said: “We are trying to conclude negotiations with the current lessee that will ensure the best outcome for all parties.”