PUB giant Punch Taverns has been accused of ‘forcing out’ the tenants of Uttoxeter’s oldest watering hole with ‘incessant and unreasonable’ rent hikes.
David Remmer and town and borough councillor Andrew Riley will leave Ye Olde Talbot on May 27 after 13 years in charge.
In a parting shot at landlord Punch, Councillor Riley claimed the firm’s ‘incessant’ rent hikes had made his business ‘unviable’.
He claimed Punch had increased his rent from £231-a-week to £978 during his tenure.
He said the ‘final straw’ came when the pub giant, which owns 4,000 watering holes, proposed another nine per cent rise at the turn of the year.
Councillor Riley said: “It’s got to a stage now where, despite our success in keeping the pub really busy, it’s no longer viable and I believe Punch has priced itself out of the market.
“It’s not just the rent. We’re tied to buy beer exclusively through them when it could be sourced a lot cheaper from elsewhere.
“And, even when someone comes in to do things like PAT testing or safety checks, we’re lumbered with a bill for hundreds of pounds.
“I think those kind of expenses should really be the landlord’s responsibility, rather than that of the tenants.
“We managed to talk Punch down to about 4.5 per cent after it said it wanted to up rent by nine per cent, but we feel it’s still too much for us to cope with.
“The sad thing is, the next person who comes in will probably get a really good deal to help them get off the ground.
“Surely loyalty and sustainability should be rewarded, but in our opinion we’ve been punished for our success.
“We’ve invested money in the pub, creating a brilliant beer garden and heated smoking area, but we feel Punch has invested barely anything in the pub since we took over.”
Punch is trying to stave off the threat of insolvency by restructuring a £2.3 billion debt.
The Burton-based firm announced pre-tax profits of £50 million and reported increased profits across its pubs earlier this week.
But it is yet to agree a refinancing deal with investors, leaving many Punch pubs in the area fearing for their future.
Councillor Riley said: “David and I are incredibly sad to be leaving and I’d like to thank all our regulars for their loyalty over the last 13 years.
“We’re staying in Uttoxeter so I can continue with my duties as a councillor and because we think it’s a lovely town to live in.”
A Punch Taverns spokesman said: “We offer our licensees a variety of arrangements on beer prices and rent to help them run successful businesses.
“The type of agreement determines the rates and the financial responsibilities for different areas within the business.
“The rent at Ye Olde Talbot remains competitive and is a fair market rent.
“Independent rent assessors help with the rent review process and if licensees disagree they can appeal to the industry’s independent assessor.
“Equally, any changes in drinks prices are made in line with that of wholesale drinks prices movement.
“We recognise that market conditions remain tough for the whole industry but we have introduced many initiatives to help licensees improve their profitability.
“We have always been open to negotiate the rates and investment potential at Ye Olde Talbot.
“We have worked closely with Mr Riley and believe he is a good operator.
“Mr Riley has made the decision to leave and we continue to remain open to any negotiations.”