Steve Sparrow, who took on the Mill Tavern, in Shottermill, West Sussex, on a tenancy at will in April, has become increasingly frustrated with Punch after unwittingly inheriting an unpaid gas bill totalling close to £10,000 from a previous tenant.
When taking on the pub, Sparrow discovered the kitchen was unable to receive a gas supply because of a problem with the pipe. Now, thanks to the arrears, the gas has been cut off completely, and Sparrow said he isn’t sure how much longer he can keep the pub going.
“The situation has become ridiculous. Staff are unable to wash their hands properly, and I’m unable to get the food side of the business going,” he explained.
“I had an environmental health officer visit the other day, and she absolutely hit the roof when I said Punch wasn’t doing anything about the situation. I even had to start up a wood fire in the bar area when we had cold weather last week.
“All I hear from my area manager is that it’s my responsibility. He even had the audacity to suggest I could do sandwiches.”
Sparrow, a former Whitbread area manager who runs two other pubs, said he’s no longer prepared to pay rent until the issue’s been resolved.
“I’ve done my best to keep going in spite of Punch. My area manager keeps telling me that, should I leave, they will simply get another tenant in. But given it takes a minimum of six weeks for the gas company to reconnect the supply, who would want to take on this pub?”
He added: “The only reason I’ve stuck it out so long is the customers. If the pub closes, they will have nowhere to drink.”
Punch Taverns claimed it was working closely with Sparrow “to resolve any outstanding changes”.
A spokesman said: “We’ve spoken to British Gas and it is looking to reconnect the gas as soon as possible."