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Licensed trade warned against EastEnders pub fiasco


Whilst often lauded for its fanciful and depressing storylines, EastEnders nonetheless tackles real life situations head-on – often with a “warts and all” undertone.  And for anyone operating within the pub sector, a recent and on-going storyline certainly sounds a warning bell on how not to operate.

There’s no doubting that certain elements of the on-trade have suffered in recent times and it’s not unusual to hear of independent operators experiencing financial hardship or even deciding to call time once and for all.

In EastEnders, publicans Mick and Linda Carter recently found themselves in need of some quick cash to carry out repairs and so took the decision to sell the freehold of the pub and take a lease back.  Unfortunately, unbeknown to them, they chose to sell to James Willmott-Brown - a notorious villain throughout the show’s history!  

With a vision to develop the land the pub stands on for residential property, James Willmott-Brown served a schedule of dilapidations with a repair liability totalling £60,000 to his new tenants knowing they’d be unlikely to be able to pay this and, thus, leaving him open to forfeit the lease.  

Whilst the outcome of this situation will no doubt continue to be debated for several more weeks to come, it does, nonetheless, serve as a useful reminder to those in the trade who are considering a freehold sale.

Andy Ward, a member of FBC Manby Bowdler’s commercial property team who specialises in licensed trade properties, explains:

“A show like EastEnders thrives on the drama and crisis element of every situation that it covers.  Real life, however, doesn’t need to be like that and anyone operating within the pub sector would be well-advised to seek expert legal advice before making costly mistakes like those portrayed in the show.

“Running a pub often isn’t easy and many seasoned publicans have found themselves up against increasingly challenging conditions in recent years.  What appears to be a quick win, however, often won’t be and taking a more considered approach to dealing with the ownership structure of a pub and the business which operates within its four walls could pay dividends over the longer term.

“Of course, this applies equally for any business as issues around freehold and leasehold properties can have monumental ramifications for the conditions under which that company operates.  

“However, whilst many businesses can adapt to a move of premises, this simply isn’t the case with a pub or other hospitality operation.  If the ability to operate from the pub building is taken away, the chances are that will be the end of that pub and the livelihoods of the publicans operating it.  

“Pub operators, therefore, need to ask themselves if they can afford to take such a risk and I’d urge any publican to seek proper legal advice and contact us first before contemplating any dealings with their freehold or leasehold property.  The great British pub is an institution to cherish and we must do all we can to support as many as possible to flourish, even when times become tough.”

If you have any concerns regards the lease on a property you own or any of the issues raised above, contact Andy on 01952 208409 or

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