MEP and Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) member Bill Etheridge, who previously called for the return of traditional crown stamps on pint glasses, said the locally listed Fiddlers Arms, in Lower Gornal, was worth saving.
He said: “It would be a crying shame to lose yet another lovely old building. The deal between NewRiver Retail and the Co-operative is one drawn up by accountants with no acknowledgement of local communities. Our pubs are the heartbeat of the community and should be cherished.”
Locals are currently campaigning to save the pub, which is also home to a pigeon flyers club and is used by a church group and various other community organisations.
NewRiver acquired the Fiddlers Arms from Marston’s in 2013 as part of a 202-strong portfolio of properties. It is submitting plans to demolish the existing pub and erect a convenience store as well as five residential properties.
A spokesman for NewRiver told The Morning Advertiser: “It is always regrettable when public houses close, but to be sustainable, pubs are no different from any other business.
“To maintain the operation of the pub and under a management agreement with NewRiver, Marston’s is covering the main overheads and remunerates the tenant on a percentage of the turnover.
“This percentage has been set at a commercially unsustainable level to attract a tenant to run the pub.
“Consistently poor trading performance over an extended period demonstrates that the Fiddlers Arms is not a viable business going forward, so we have formulated a plan that will introduce alternative uses, which will not only serve the needs of the local community, but create new jobs.”
NewRiver is understood to have produced a detailed viability report demonstrating that the pub experienced a 70% loss in trade over a four-year-period.
Community needs met
The spokesman continued: “There are 12 alternative public houses within a one-mile radius of the Fiddlers Arms, meaning that the needs of the local community are being met in terms of food, drink, entertainment and a place to meet.
“To compete with these numerous alternative pubs, it is estimated that an investment of several hundred thousand pounds is required to bring the Fiddlers Arms up to standard.
“We are clear that the required investment will not deliver a positive return."