The Barge Inn at Honeystreet, saved from possible closure by a community buyout with the help of more than £400,000 Lottery funding, is insolvent it was confirmed to the Gazette this afternoon.
The pub opened for the last time yesterday and staff were devastated to be told as they were leaving last night that they are redundant.
This afternoon John Brewin, chairman of the buyout group, confirmed that there was a large VAT debt but was unable to substantiate the £100,000 figure which a source told the Gazette earlier today.
Mr Brewin said: “We did try to register for VAT but we had the most awful problems."
Mr Brewin had to wait until this afternoon, after meeting the Government’s Insolvency Service before confirming that the pub is closed and will not be re-opened by the Barge Inn Community Project Committee, which he has chaired from the start.
The 200-year-old canal-side pub will remain closed, possibly for several weeks, until a new buyer can be found for the 18 years its lease has left to run.
News that the staff were told last night the pub had reached the end of the road was leaked to the Gazette.
A friend of one of the staff said: “I have a friend who has been working there since the pub re-opened and all the staff were told last night that the pub was closing and that they have lost their jobs.
“They told me that everyone there was gutted because the news came completely out of the blue.”
The Barge Inn Community Project took over the pub in August 2110 after its previous landlords June and Adrian Potts retired after running the pub for 17 years.
It closed for six weeks from February last year and re-opened in April after a major refit financed by the Big Lottery’s Village SOS fund with more than £430,000 being poured into buying the lease and refurbishing the building and with plans to eventually have a village shop – the last one closed 20 years ago – as part of the project.
The shop has never materialised.
Mr Brewin said this afternoon that the pub was not attracting the level of customers it needed to keep its head above water.
“The summer was well below expectations for trading and since the end of August the little trade we had has fallen away completely," he said.
“Our running costs were much higher than the previous tenants’ had been and we were in the process of bringing them under control - but too little, too late.”
The BBC filmed every aspect of the refurbishment and people like Aggie MacKenzie, co-presenter of How Clean is Your House was brought in to help with the spring clean before work could start including a brand new oak bar.
The village buy-out of the pub’s lease featured in a one hour BBC documentary presented by Sarah Beeny, coinciding with the completion of the refurbishment.
Sandra Bhatia, who was appointed by Village SOS to head the project, said today: “I am in shock. I was told on Friday there were problems there but I was unaware it was going to close.”
The property owner Ian McIvor, whose business Honeystreet Ales leases the pub to the community committee, said he was surprised the pub had closed.
He said: “I have no issues with the pub or management committee and this is the first I have heard that it has closed.”
Mr McIvor said the rent was paid up to date.