Buyout won’t stop business

Ron Miles behind the bar at the lamb & flag in Ottery. Ref sho 3816-39-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Ron Miles behind the bar at the lamb & flag in Ottery. Ref sho 3816-39-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Pub landlords who invested six years and around £200,000 in their business face having it ‘ripped out’ from under them.

Having always planned to buy the Lamb and Flag, in Batts Lane, themselves, Ron and Angi Miles were shocked to hear that it was one of 158 pubs sold by owners Punch Taverns on Friday, September 11, to a commercial property firm, NewRiver Retail, in a £53.5million deal.

The couple have vowed to keep running the pub – which made international headlines in December as the host venue for a Christmas lunch for lonely people, organised and funded by widower Betty Williams.

Following a meeting with the new owners, they have assured customers that, despite their disappointment, it is ‘business as usual’.

The couple took on the Lamb and Flag as a derelict, abandoned pub and have built it up into a thriving local.

Ron said: “We took it over six years ago as a derelict building and have worked to do it up to what it is now at our own expense. We did it always with the intention of buying it.”

He explained they had put an offer in to buy the Lamb and Flag two years ago, which was turned down by the pub-owning giant, they then formally lodged their interest in it again six months ago.

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Punch has previously told them the pub was on its protection list, so news of the sale came completely out of the blue.

“We got a phone call on a Monday morning saying the pub had been sold to NewRiver,” said Ron.

“It was done at company level so no one knew what was going on.”

He and Angi had enquired about the pub when it was shuttered up and after initially being told it would be a ‘waste of time’ to reopen it, they took it on.

Ron said: “When we got in, the whole place was green with mould. There were still full ash trays on the tables and a freezer full of food.

“We took on the tenancy and then started to undertake a full rebuild of the place. Now it’s being ripped out from under us.”

A spokesman for NewRiver said: “It is very much business as usual at the pub and we have appointed a specialist pub management company to work closely with the licensee to ensure that it continues to be a valued part of the local community.”

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