Struggling pub landlord calls time
ONE of Nailsea's oldest pubs could be sold after the landlord said he could no longer compete with increasing competition from other bars in the town.
Landlord Russell Wragg announced this week on the pub's Facebook page he was leaving the Friendship Inn in the New Year.
Mr Wragg, 33, said: "I have given notice at The Friendship Inn.
"One of the reasons is I can no longer compete with Wetherspoons which is selling a pint for £1.99 and £1.80 of ale.
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"I have seen a reduction in the business compared to this time two years ago and it's been a struggle.
"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 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 May he reduced The Friendship's opening hours.
The pub chain may now consider selling off the freehold of the property – meaning it could be redeveloped flats or other housing – with the beer pumps being turned off for good.
The pub, at Stockway North, is the second hostelry to fall victim to increasing competition, including from Wetherspoons which opened the GlassMaker at Crown Glass Place six months ago.
The Courtyard Wine Bar also closed in April after 25 years in business.
Nailsea town centre has more than 20 retail outlets selling food and drink and competition for trade is fierce.
The Royal Oak pub in the High Street, owned by the John Barras chain, was also given a £160,000 before is reopened in February with a revamped menu and bar deals.
Mr Wragg took over the pub at Stockway North in April 2010 after it has a complete renovation.
The Friendship Inn first opened its doors to customers back in 1792 and is the second oldest pub in Nailsea after The Moorend Spout, formerly The Butcher's Arms.
Although not a listed building The Friendship is just a stone's throw from the old Glassworks and was originally called The Glasshouse Inn.
A Wetherspoon spokesman said: "It is not for us to comment on another pub's trade, but we would say that all pubs in Nailsea compete with one another and ultimately it is for the customer to decide which pub they wish to go to."
Local councillors say they are also saddened the pub – once one of the town's most thriving hostelries – could close.
Nailsea town council chairman, Councillor 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 and we can confirm it is not currently up for sale."