CAMRA is urging us to support our local pubs, following the shock news that one of Oxford’s oldest pubs is set to close on January 31 because of challenging business conditions.

Historic pub The Lamb & Flag in St Giles has been a favourite with real ale enthusiasts and students since 1566, and is owned by St John’s College.

It closed after the first lockdown in March 2020 when all its staff were furloughed, and although it reopened in August it has not been able to break even.

“CAMRA is very concerned about the closure of The Lamb & Flag and has vowed to do all it can to protect it and object to any applications for change of use”

Dave Richardson from the Oxfordshire branch of CAMRA said: “In the past The Lamb & Flag was successful and there is a possibility that someone could come forward – there has already been an expression of interest – but of course it will all depend on trading conditions. We hope that if someone does take it on, the pub’s character will be protected.”

The news came as a shock and CAMRA, the pub and real ale campaigning group, is urging communities across the county to come together to protect their pubs for the future, and consider running them as community pubs.

So what went wrong? Steve Elston, Deputy Bursar St John’s College, said: “The Lamb & Flag, like many other businesses in the hospitality industry, has been hard hit by the pandemic.

“Despite the best efforts of the staff, and looking at every option to keep it open, the trading figures of the last 12 months have meant that the pub is not currently financially viable.

“The pub will remain in the College’s ownership and the focus now is to work to look beyond the present situation and ensure the pub’s long-term future is secured.”

“Also, the College as a charity is not allowed to financially support a loss-making business that is not part of its core charitable objectives. Therefore, the Directors of the Lamb & Flag (Oxford) Ltd have regrettably been obliged to close the pub.

“We know that it holds an important place in Oxford’s history. The College would like to thank the staff of the Lamb & Flag (Oxford) Limited for their best endeavours in such challenging circumstances. The pub will remain in the College’s ownership and the focus now is to work to look beyond the present situation and ensure the pub’s long-term future is secured.”

CAMRA is very concerned about the closure of The Lamb & Flag and has vowed to do all it can to protect it and object to any applications for change of use. 

Dave Richardson from the Oxfordshire branch of CAMRA said: “The news about the Lamb & Flag came out of the blue, we did not expect that at all. We have heard there is some interest already from someone who might want to take it over but that’s all we know at the moment.

“there has already been an expression of interest – but it will all depend on trading conditions. We hope that if someone does take it on, the pub’s character will be protected.”

“It has always been a drinkers pub and was obviously badly affected last year, especially because it did not rely on food, so did not benefit from the VAT cut.

Dave Richardson from the Oxfordshire branch of CAMRA

He added: “This is a sad indictment of the pandemic, but all pubs require on-going support to survive. Many independent pubs have survived lockdown by offering takeaways and maintaining strong links with their communities which is really important.” SEE OUR 70 STRONG TAKEAWAY GUIDE HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/top-60-oxfordshires-definitive-2021-takeaway-guide-eat-like-a-god-and-support-your-local-cafes-pubs-and-restaurants/

The Lamb & Flag (Oxford) Limited, owned by St John’s College, will close and cease operations at the pub on January 31. It will remain in the College’s ownership and options for its future will be considered. 

The Lamb & Flag (Oxford) Limited took over the management of the pub in 1997 to use the profits generated to fund scholarships for graduate students. The students on the scholarships will not be impacted by this decision and the scheme will continue for now, with funding provided directly by the college.

Famous visitors have included CS Lewis and Thomas Hardy, former US President Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

The doors will remain closed

Mr Richardson added: “The pub was not tied to a brewery and had a wide range of customers. Losing pubs can really impact communities badly and in Oxfordshire we have nine community pubs already that have been taken over by local people to protect them.

“Our pubs are important parts of our communities, in towns, cities and villages and although now is not the best time to be taking a pub on, CAMRA can help and support anyone who is thinking about doing it. We must protect our pubs.”

To find out more go to www.oxford.camra.org.uk

SARAH EDWARDS

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