Village pub shuts after near 200% business rates hike

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Closing time: severe business rates rises have forced the Three Crowns to shut after eight years (image: Google Maps)
Closing time: severe business rates rises have forced the Three Crowns to shut after eight years (image: Google Maps)
A West Sussex pub has closed its doors after a huge rise in business rates from £24,000 to £70,000 in one year.

Tim Skinner took on the Three Crowns with his father on a 21-year, free-of-tie lease in West Sussex eight years ago and hosted regular events at the pub.

Skinner told The Morning Advertiser​: "[Business rates] impact everyone in the trade. It is a very tangible example of something that is completely not only unfair, it doesn't work.

"The Three Crowns went from it was approximately £24,000 to £70,000 in one fell swoop. That was on the 2016 rate increase that came in in 2017.

"[The system] is massively flawed and you can't talk to anyone about it. If you go to the local council, they will listen but even the subsidies that were offered in the 2018 Autumn Budget (one third cut in business rates for pubs with a rateable value of up to £51,000), to me that is just a slap in the face.

"It basically says, if you’re under £51,000, we will give you a massive discount but if you’re a pound over that, you get absolutely nothing.

"The biggest difference is where the rates increases have been so big for small businesses like myself, that’s somebody’s living. That’s why these businesses close.”

Huge challenge

The pub posted the news of its closure on its Facebook page this month (June) said: “It is with deep regret that we have the sad news of the closing of the Three Crowns after eight years in Wisborough Green.

“With a huge rent increase last year alongside a 200% increase in business rates and property maintenance demands, it has become a huge challenge for us to continue to trade.

“For the past two years we have dug our heels in and emptied our own pockets to keep the pub going in the heart of the village.

“We have had a huge amount of support from friends, family and villagers, which has kept us going. In May, the trading business Sussex Pub Management appointed a liquidator to discuss its options.

“It was our intention to renegotiate our lease terms, which has sadly been unsuccessful. Due to the liquidation, we are in breach of lease terms and have been served with a forfeiture notice, which sadly means we are no longer able to trade.”

The post, which was shared more than 100 times and received 433 comments, went on to thank everyone who has visited the pub over the past eight years.

It added: “As custodians of this wonderful village pub, it has been a pleasure and an honour to be here. We have loved being part of Wisborough Green village life and have proudly supported numerous events, organisations and occasions.

“Loving the local weddings, family celebrations and day-to-day visitors with no two days the same. We must thank our amazing team members, both past and present, who have contributed to the heart of the Three Crowns over the years with continued hard work and loyalty.

“Our wonderful team would greatly appreciate all of your support over this difficult time, all of who are great and like family.

“We have loved looking after each and every one of our lovely guests and thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your support and custom over the years. As we would say, ‘thanks for popping in’. Tim and Teddy.”

Looking ahead

However, Skinner was optimistic about the future and outlined his beliefs on how a pub isn’t just about the four walls it sits in.

He added: “I don't know what my plans are because there’s lots happening and I have got stuff to sort out but I would like to carry on with this idea of a pub without walls. Be it, parties at someone’s house to bigger events. 

“[At the pub], we did a Christmas event called Festive Feasting for six years.

“We refined it and tweaked it and just tried to make it something innovative that people would enjoy the experience of coming out at Christmas in a teepee, with a fire and have dinner.

"We saw other people were doing the same, which, in the beginning was quite flattering because we realised we had done something quite special so we are going to do something at Christmas, somewhere.

"The big word is collaboration. We are really lucky to work with other small businesses from gin makers to farms, to a local brewer and we want to work with those people going forward.”

Skinner also lauded the support he has received from villagers and suppliers following the news of the closure.

He said: “I had guests turning up, people that I have known, friends and regulars, over the weekend we moved out asking how they could help. I had people scrubbing the kitchen, packing up boxes, people offering vehicles, giving me storage space, just coming to bring coffees, and give us a hug.

“It was quite a surreal experience to be honest. I realised what a wonderful community we live in, what a wonderful network and community that I have been lucky to be part of creating and those connections and relationships exist outside the pub, and the pub without walls will carry on.”

Related topics: Property law

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