Battle over lease expiration on ‘unique’ Brighton pub

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Online petition: Pleisure MD Nick Griffin said he was "gutted" after EI said it would not be renewing the pub lease (image: Mike Quinn, Geograph)
Online petition: Pleisure MD Nick Griffin said he was "gutted" after EI said it would not be renewing the pub lease (image: Mike Quinn, Geograph)

Related tags: Brighton

Pub regulars have rallied behind the Great Eastern in Brighton after it was told its lease would not be renewed by its pubco.

The Great Eastern is leased to spirits specialist Pleisure Pub Company and its lease is set to expire in March.

Just over 4,000 people have signed an online petition​ for the lease on the Great Eastern to be extended. It also calls for renewals on the leases of Pleisure’s two other pubs – the St James and the Office – when they are due.

Pubco Ei Group​ were keen to reassure punters the pub would not undergo massive changes.

However Pleisure's managing director said his business would be destroyed and regulars have said they fear the city could lose a cultural gem.

Online outcry

"We don't want to leave, simple as that," Pleisure boss Nick Griffin told The Morning Advertiser​.

Pleisure has operated the Great Eastern for more than 20 years and the publican described feeling “gutted” about the section 25 notice, which would see Ei take back the pub for its own use.

"Our customers are just amazed,” Griffin said.

A spokesperson from Ei Group said: “We are in ongoing dialogue with the current publican with regards to their expiring lease at the Great Eastern.

“We would like to reassure customers that we are committed to ensuring that this site remains an attractive and thriving pub at the heart of the local community.”

The petition, titled ‘Save The Great Eastern’​, was created by trade writer and regular Andy Burnyeat.

"The reaction has been amazing, if you read some of the comments you can just see how much this touches Brighton culture,” he told The Morning Advertiser​, adding that the number of signatures exceeded his expectations.

Burnyeat added: “There is something about Brighton, it has its own atmosphere and people like to do what they want to do. These three pubs absolutely fit that perfectly, they are slightly bohemian.

“Any kind of threat to it was always going to produce this type of reaction, with hindsight.”

Quirky city

Griffin added: "Why upset so many customers? Brighton is a very quirky city and this is one of the quirkiest pubs in it. It is very unique and a specialist operation.”

He has also written to the pubco's chief executive officer, Simon Townsend, about the personal impact the decision would have.

The trio of pubs have enjoyed various award successes over the years, including the title of The Morning Advertiser​'s Spirits Pub of the Year in 2008.

A former awards judge, Burnyeat described Pleisure Pubs as “great pubs to be in, old-fashioned, traditional places with real ale and good music,” and said he met his wife at the St James.

“We’re not against Ei as a company, they have every right to do what they are doing but we don’t think they should in this particular case.

“We think talking is the way forward,” he added.

The Brighton and South Downs branch of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) said it “does not support the unnecessary closure of this, or any other pub”.

  • Interested in running a pub? You can find out more about pubs for sale, lease and tenancy on the MA’s​ property site​.

Related topics: Property law, Ei Group

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