Nigel Humphreys and Jane Hobson, managers at the Railway Hotel in Nantwich, Cheshire, confirmed they would be stepping away from the venue exactly 30 years after they took the helm on 13 February 1993.
Humphreys claimed Star had increased the pub’s rent despite life in hospitality currently being very difficult. “There doesn't seem to be a lot of compassion or loyalty after 30 years,” he said, “so consequently, it’s ruffled our feathers to the degree where we've said enough is enough – we just can't do this any longer.”
He continued: “The way they’re doing it, there is very little compassion, and there's certainly no loyalty in the way the contract has been settled, so, we've got no other option than to go through with this.”
The annual rent increase would have been under £300 per year, in line with previous increases, with no major rent hike planned, The Morning Advertiser understands.
But Humphreys said: “It’s not even about the amount you’re going to raise it. It would only have to go up £5 and we would be out of there by 31 December.”
It was “very upsetting” for the operator that this was not a situation they’d engineered themselves. “We’ve got through Covid, which we’re very proud of, but that took its toll because like businesses, we took a hit and didn’t pay ourselves wages for two and a half years.
Hanging up the oven gloves
“Jane and I did anything to keep the pool afloat, and there's only so long you can tolerate that. Then again, we seem to be penalised where [Star] comes along and just says, ‘there's the bill, there's the rent going up.”
A Star spokesperson said: “The licensees have operated the Railway Hotel for 30 years and will be greatly missed by their customers and the community. We want to keep the pub open for local residents to enjoy after their departure and to that end will begin recruiting for new licensees in the coming weeks.”
In a Facebook post, the operators thanked their “wonderful” staff and guests. “In this time we have raised our family, met lots of wonderful people, some of whom have become special friends. We have had sad times and hard times but mostly lots of fun times, maybe it’s time to write that book!
“We feel we have reached that point where it is just too difficult to continue our work in this profession and feel it’s time to hang up the oven gloves.”
This price hike was the “final nail in the coffin”, according to Humphreys, but he also held onto hope the decision could be a blessing in disguise.
A sad farewell
“In about six to 12 months’ time, we might say, ‘you know something? We didn’t need this aggravation. Possibly, they’ve done us a favour,” he added.
Despite this, at the moment, it was still “all very raw,” as this is all the couple had done for 30 years. The site also had a hotel with 11 letting rooms and an eatery which was “well known for [its] breakfasts”. It also acted as a live music venue, hosting events including Nantwich Pride and Rock the Railway.
The licensees’ farewell Facebook post racked up nearly 700 like and more than 200 comments. One user commented: “Sorry to hear the sad news. Really enjoyed playing the Railway with various bands over the years. Thank you for running a great venue and I wish you all the best for the future.”
Another added: “Very very sad to hear this news but would like to take the opportunity to say Thank you to you Nige and Jane and all the staff over the years for all of your hard work and encouragement in keeping music live and free to all. All the best in whatever you do next x”
For Humphreys, there was only one word to describe the social media response – “overwhelming”.
He said: “We've done so much, we feel, for the community, or charities and so forth, and we've done events, and we’ve just tried to keep these things going, because that's what we're about – we’re a community pub.”