More than 20 pubs in and around Doncaster could be under threat because of financial problems at one of Britain’s biggest pub companies, campaigners fear.
Punch Taverns have warned administrators may have to be called in because of the firm’s current debts, unless they can agree a restructuring deal for their repayments.
Campaigners who are fighting to keep Doncaster’s pubs open are concerned over the possible impact on their sites. Punch is in financial difficulties after it ran up debts of £2.3 billion by going on an expansion spree before the financial crisis caused a downturn in business.
This month it warned if an agreement could not be reached with creditors, it may see an ‘administrative receiver’ called in.
Paul Kennedy, community pubs officer for the Doncaster branch of the real ale campaign group CAMRA, who is supporting The Doncaster Star’s Save Our Pubs campaign, said: “We are concerned there is the possibility they may try to cash in by selling off pubs.
“Potentially we could lose a lot of pubs, and these are the sorts of pubs we would like to get listed as community assets, and look for the community to take over.
“I think people will be worried about this.
“Unless landlords are able to raise the money to buy their pubs themselves, it may be that the highest bidder chooses to do something different with the site.”
CAMRA is currently trying to get two borough pubs listed as ‘community assets’ by Doncaster Council, which would mean the local community would have to be told of any sale plans, giving people the chance to put together proposals to buy them for the community.
They want to list The Little Plough, on West Laith Gate near the Frenchgate Centre, and The Corner Pin on St Sepulchre Gate West.
One of the landlords whose pub is among those owned by Punch said he would look to buy his site if it was put up to be sold off.
Nick Griffin, landlord of The Little Plough, said: “I would try to buy the pub, as long as the price was right.
“But I do have concerns Doncaster could lose pubs over this.
“A pub I once ran in Braithwell was put on the market by a pub company, and was sold. It is now a private home. Some pubs could potentially be lost over this. If they were sold, it would just depend on what the buyer chose to do with them.”
Punch Taverns said if a restructuring was not agreed in the near future, there would be a default on the debts.
The statement added the company wished to emphasise ‘a default would be expected to culminate in the appointment of an administrative receiver’, and that the firm believed this would result in a materially worse outcome than would be achieved by the agreement of a consensual restructuring.
“Against this backdrop, the company’s board are aiming to agree the terms of a consensual restructuring over the next few weeks, ahead of the next financial covenant reporting date of April 15.”
The Star launched the Save Our Pubs campaign last month because of concerns over the number of pubs that have closed in Doncaster in recent years.
We are calling for the Government to bring in measures to allow more freedom for pub managers to buy their own beers, and fair rents for their pubs.
The Doncaster pubs owned by Punch are: Anne Arms Suttonfield Road, Sutton; Bay Horse Inn, High Street, Hatfield; Blacksmiths Church Street, Everton; Bryndale Scrooby Road, Bircotes; Carpenters Arms Westgate, Tickhill; Coach and Horses, Scot Lane; Eagle and Child West Street, Conisbrough; Harlington Inn, Doncaster Road, Harlington; Harvey Arms Old Bawtry Road, Finningley; Masons Arms 22 Market Place; New Inn, South Bank, Stainforth; Pickburn Arms, Doncaster Road, Pickburn; Little Plough, West Laith Gate; Poacher, Radburn Road, Rossington; Railway, Askern; Royal Hotel Campsall Balk Lane, Norton; St Leger Tavern, Silver Street; White Hart Main Street, Wadworth; White Hart, Swan Street, Bawtry; Windmill Queen Street, Thorne; Woodlands Hotel Great North Road, Woodlands.