UPDATE: Landlords reassure customers after closure fears

A COUNTRY pub could face closure without help from the community following problems since the new landlords took over less than a year ago.

Jeff Keegan and his wife Michaela, 49, moved all the way from Blackpool to take on the lease for The Black Horse, at Gozzards Ford near Abingdon, in April.

But right from the start Mr Keegan said there were issues - and he says the brewery is to blame.

The 55-year-old explained: “When we moved in we were told by locals that we shouldn’t turn on the boiler as it was dangerous.

“It turns out it needs replacing, which will cost £20,000.

“This has had a massive impact on business because the pub is cold and that sends people away in droves.”

The couple will hold a public meeting at the Faringdon Road pub on Tuesday from 7pm to talk to anyone in the community that may be able to help to save the pub.

Dave Mountford from the Pubs Advisory Service will also attend.

But the landlord added that they have every intention of keeping the businesses going and were confident they could make it a success.

Mr Keegan added there were other issues at the pub, such as the condition of the kitchen, which had all had an impact on how much money the pub generated, and has left them struggling to pay the bills.

The father-of-two claims brewery Greene King, who own the building, did not do the proper checks before handing over the leasehold to the couple.

He said: “The business just isn’t able to sustain the rent of £42,000 that we have to pay the brewery.”

The couple say they are now in a situation where they are unable to make the monthly payments and have been told legal proceedings will start against them if they don’t make the payments in full.

Mr Keegan, said: “It’s devastating. If we’d known the pub needed a new boiler then we wouldn’t have taken it on."

He said the couple had been looking for an established business when they decided to make the move to become publicans.

Mrs Keegan was formerly an intelligence officer for the police and was looking for a less stressful career.

Her husband said: “We wanted something we could walk straight into, we even turned down a pub in Swindon because the fire alarm system needed replacing.”

A Greene King spokesperson said: “We have sympathy for Jeff and Michaela’s situation and are still talking with them to hopefully resolve matters satisfactorily for all parties.

"It is unfortunate that things are not working out at the pub as they had hoped but throughout their time we have sought to offer them our full support.

“We are clear that all due diligence checks were carried out in line with Pubs Code regulations when they took over the pub and we will meet with them again this month to continue discussing the situation.”