Elenid and George Carlig took on the Old White Hart in Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, in 2013 after purchasing a 10-year renewable lease with two years remaining.
In a letter to Ei Group CEO Simon Townsend seen by The Morning Advertiser, the couple claimed the lease was purchased with the “promise it would automatically be renewed and that they would have many years of business”.
However, the pair stated that 18 months later the lease renewal was rejected and, after several meetings, they were offered a retail partnership tenancy.They were not content with this as they felt it equated to “the loss of £50,000” they had only just paid for the lease. They were also unhappy that their rent had gone up to £24,000 from the previously agreed £14,000 per year.
The couple claimed they continued to lose money after that point due to the “lack of support” from Ei Publican Partnerships, their “bullying tactics” and “extortionate prices”.
The pubco has since rejected the claims within the letter, and told The MA the contents are “misleading and inaccurate”. However, it would not confirm which parts.
'Pennies of profit'
In the letter the couple, who have two young children, wrote it was "no wonder that as a young family [we] found running the Old White Hart more stress than [we] could handle”.
They wrote: “After paying your invoice, taking day-to-day costs of electric, gas, staff, water rates, business rates, PAYE, VAT, insurance, corporate tax, TV licence and SKY/BT to name but a few, we are left with pennies of profit, if any at all.
“We have transformed this beautiful 15th-century pub in the historic town square of Llantwit Major from a pub that was nicknamed ‘The Zoo’ into a family-friendly and popular real ale destination serving traditional homemade food from locally-sourced meat and vegetables.
“We are one of the most popular pubs and restaurants in the area, but with the issues above, it just isn’t enough."
The couple believe that Ei Publican Partnerships did want them to stay however, as Ei committed to invest in a “major toilet refurbishment” in April.
“Unfortunately, the toilet refurbishment started just before the summer holidays and took weeks longer than planned so our trade was affected greatly,” they wrote in the letter.
“Enterprise refused to help in our request of a financial support during the refurbishment to help with the loss of trade.
“The standard of work was so poor that drainage installed as part of the refurbishment actually channelled water into the pub when it rained.”
'Look after the pub'
Worried about the effect of them leaving the pub, the couple pleaded with the pubco to take it and put some “real investment into it”.
“Don’t let our town down, take some interest in your pubs and publicans which you have a responsibility to do,” they wrote.
As a result of events, in April the couple decided to give the required six months’ notice to end their tenancy, with a departure date of 24 October 2017.
Commenting on leaving the Old White Hart, Elenid told The MA: “We have real mixed feelings. We are upset that all the hard work and effort we've put in over four years has now been wasted. But also the pressure and stress the four years has caused my family, well it's almost a relief it's over.
“We now have a chance to get our family life back on track.”
In response, a spokesperson for Ei Publican Partnerships said: “We have made considerable efforts over a significant period of time to resolve matters with our publicans at the Old White Hart.
“Regrettably this has not been possible despite a substantial package of support being put in place.
“The contents of their recent letter is misleading and inaccurate, but we will not comment on the commercial relationship between Ei Group and Mr and Mrs Carlig.
“We recognise that the Old White Hart acts as an important hub for the local community in Llantwit Major and we would like to reassure them that we will do our utmost to ensure it remains so for the long term.”