Landlord to leave The Friendship Inn at Nailsea UPDATED
By Prue_Reid | Friday, October 12, 2012, 16:10
The Friendship Inn in Nailsea could close in the new year when its landlord leaves.
An uncertain future for The Friendship Inn as landlord announces he is to leave...
...landlord Russell Wragg is setting up a restaurant review website
It will be the second local pub to fall victim to increasing competition and cheap bar prices offered by nearby Wetherspoons.
Wetherspoons opened at The Glassmaker in the town centre six months ago.
Landlord Russell Wragg said he understands that Punch Taverns could sell the freehold of the three-storey historic building at Stockway North and he jokingly speculated it could become an 'Indian restaurant'.
Nailsea town centre has more than 20 retail outlets selling food and drink and competition for trade is fierce.
Added to this the John Barras-owned pub The Royal Oak in the High Street was given a £160,000 makeover before it reopened in February this year with a revamped menu and bar deals.
Mr Wragg, aged 33, said he won't be leaving the pub until the new year.
He said: "I have given notice at The Friendship Inn.
"September is known to be a quiet period in general but I have found it more of a struggle this year to compete with the attraction of a £1.99 pint of Thatchers Gold cider and £1.80 for a pint of ale at Wetherspoons.
"I have decided that it's best if I wind up operations and move on.
"It is not just the competition, but also rising utility bills and the rising duty on alcohol.
"There is also a faltering number of people going out and drinking in the town and maybe this is because they don't have the money in the current economic climate.
"It may also be that people are choosing to go into Bristol more regularly for the entertainment.
"We are also struggling with the rise in VAT to 20 per cent and it's not something which can really be added to the price of a pint.
"If you can't do that, it starts to eat into your profit.
"Punch Taverns has been really good and have doing everything in its power to help me keep the pub going.
"But if I can't make it work, then it's time to go."
Mr Wragg took over the pub at Stockway North in April 2010 after a complete renovation.
The Friendship Inn first opened its doors to customers back in 1792 and it is the second oldest pub in Nailsea after The Moorend Spout, formerly The Butcher's Arms at Kingshill.
In April The Courtyard wine bar closed after 25 years and the Queen's Head recently stopped selling food.
And only this week after 15 years Bottelino's Italian restaurant was sold to the owners of family-run The Europa at St Stephens Street, Bristol.
Although not a listed building The Friendship is just a stone's throw from the old glassworks and was originally called The Glasshouse Inn with the cottage next door acting as a beer house.
Mr Wragg was a consultant and accountant to the pub trade before taking on his own establishment.
But even with live bands, karaoke, bingo and curry nights he could not make the popular pub pay and in May he reduced The Friendship opening hours.
Mr Wragg has told customers: "I'll be moving out of Nailsea.
"If the pub becomes an Indian restaurant I don't want to live above a curry house."
Mr Wragg is going to work on a restaurant review website called aboutmymeal.com.
Nailsea Town Council chairman Rod Lees said: "I think it is terribly sad for Nailsea when one of the town's oldest pubs could be threatened with closure.
"In an ideal world I would like to see the Friendship retained as a pub.
"It is desperately important to retain the leisure industry in Nailsea."
Punch Taverns has 4,500 pubs across the UK.
A Punch Taverns spokesman said: "We are considering a number of options for The Friendship."
A 'for sale' board has gone up outside The Friendship Inn.
The Stock Way North pub freehold is on the market for £295,000.
However, 90 per cent of the asking price is subject to VAT.
As well as the pub and pool room a four-bed flat on two floors is included in the sale of the semi-detached property.
The sale is being handled by Michael Eaton, of Exeter-based estate agents Jones Lang LaSalle.
An application to extend or for a change-of-use would have to be submitted to North Somerset Council planners.
A council spokesman said the only pub in recent years to convert to other uses has been The Bell, at Congresbury, which is now a Tesco one stop shop.
However, a furore by local residents stopped the Bristol House Inn at Weston-super-Mare also becoming a Tesco store, he added.
Another public protest is underway down the road by The Portishead Tesco Action Group.
This group were launched to fight plans to open an Express Store in the former Royal Oak pub at West Hill.
They are meeting on Monday, December 10, at 7.30pm at Avon Way hall.
Click HERE for more details.
- A former barman at the White Lion pub, Silver Street, has taken over as landlord. John Lindsay who once worked at The Glasshouse has bought the lease from Hayley Gould and Louise Thomas who moved out this week.
- Friday, December 7, was the last night at The Friendship Inn for landlord Russell Wragg who posted on Facebook "FIRE SALE: From 7pm all drinks £2 - remaining draught, bottles, house doubles and more. Everything must go." He decided 'enough is enough' and is handing over to Simon and Tracey Healey to run the pub until the sale is finalised.
- Latest word on the street is that The Sawyer's Arms is going to be sold and that the Queen's Head is going to become a shop! Surely not? What have you heard? Quote: "We have it on good authority that Queen's Head is being sold to brewery Whitbread PLC which owns Costa Coffee. Plan to open in August 2013."
- Update via social media: "Apologies for mis-information but Whitbread/Costa are not interested in the Queens Head. It appears that someone from a business over the road from Queens Head got the wrong end of the stick and panicked after talking to the last landlady. Lesson learned. Check our source." Local People never reveals its sources but Nailsea is surely a bed of rumours! Love it.