Welwyn Garden City pub closes as Tesco moves in

PUBLISHED: 17:40 11 October 2012 | UPDATED: 17:48 11 October 2012

Oak Tavern

Oak Tavern

Archant

A WGC pub has been forced to call last orders unexpectedly, to make way for a new Tesco supermarket.

The Oak Tavern, in Moors Walk, will close for good next Tuesday, to make way for a new Tesco Express store, the Welwyn Hatfield Times understands.

Staff were told this morning (Thursday) that the pub had been bought by Tesco, which has offices in WGC, and that the boozer would need to be stripped and the keys handed over by next Friday.

Oak Tavern landlord Cath Gentle said: “We were told our official last day of trading will be Tuesday, and we’ve got to hand over the keys on Friday as a vacant possession.

“It’s a shock to us. We’ve been here 11 months and now we’ve got to up sticks when we’ve just settled in here and got to know everyone.

“We’ve worked hard to turn this place around and get it up and running and clean and tidy.

“We’ve made it into a real community pub. People enjoy coming here which is why I’m surprised they want to get rid of it.

“Mud sticks and I know the pub has a bad reputation. I know a lot of people that will be pleased to see it go, but not our regulars. They are devastated.”

Mrs Gentle said she had been told by Punch Taverns that the company had bid to Welwyn Hatfield Council to extend the pub’s lease, but had been gazumped by Tesco.

However, a Welwyn Hatfield Council spokeswoman confirmed this afternoon (Thursday) that it was Punch Taverns that had approached the authority about moving Tesco into the site.

“Punch Taverns has leased the building from the council since 1979,” the spokeswoman said.

“The company recently approached the council and requested both a new long term lease and permission to sub-let to Tesco.

“The council agreed to both requests and we understand that Punch has now agreed terms for a sub-letting to Tesco, which will result in the Oak Tavern closing on Tuesday (16 October). Tesco will pay rent to Punch Taverns and we understand that Punch have entered into similar arrangements on a number of pubs across the country.”

A Punch Tavern spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that the Oak Tavern site is leased by us from the council and with permission from the head landlord we are looking to develop the site but we are unable to confirm any details of whom this may be with at this point.

“We cannot confirm date of closure at present.”

Oak Tavern regular Brian Spurr added: “It’s a really good pillar of the community. I enjoy going down there for a few drinks at lunch time and meet the locals.

“They’re a pretty good bunch and the people who have been deposed have really turned the pub around.

“To be told on Thursday that they’re closing on Tuesday with no notification is a bit of a shock.”

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