Pandemic ends efforts by volunteers to keep pub open

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The Wheel Inn has been refurbished
The Wheel Inn is on the market after volunteers running the site said they were unable to continue

A COMMUNITY group has been forced to admit defeat in its running of a 19th century Pennington pub.

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The Wheel Inn at Bowling Green on Sway Road, which had been run by a Community Benefit Society (CBS) set up by local volunteers two years ago, has gone on the market because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

News of the potential sale by owners Terramek Ltd emerged prior to an auction at the pub on Wednesday night of fixtures and fittings.

Chairman of the CBS, Philippa Blunt, told the A&T she and fellow members took the “very sad” decision they could no longer be involved as it was not financially viable.

“People appreciate the effort we’ve all put in to keep it running – we’ve had lovely messages from people. It’s a very sad time,” she said.

As reported in the A&T, in 2017 the pub was under threat of being developed with houses having become run down, but local residents rallied and formed the CBS.

They completely refurbished the site and turned it into a thriving spot that hosted live music events, fairs, club nights and community social activities.

By March of this year they had got it onto an even footing and were looking to expand with an autumn fair and a music festival this year.

But it has not reopened since the easing of lockdown measures as the new social distancing measures would have meant severely restricting the number of customers, and the pub does not have a garden.

Philippa explained: “The turnover was facing significant reductions and we could not see how we could survive and ultimately had to make the very sad decision that it’s not feasible. We held discussions with the landlord and did not feel able to reopen profitably with the market rent going forward.”

She added: “People have loved coming here and we’ve been getting really good reviews on Trip Advisor, but people also understand our position as it’s hard frankly to keep the pub going.”

She revealed the owners had told her an interested party had already made an offer but had not revealed their identity, and had hinted it was not a developer.

The group would prefer to see the site continue as a pub, she said, adding: “We would love for it to involve the community; we are very willing to help out in any way we can.”

The pub is being marketed by Savills, which says it has “development potential” subject to planning and necessary conditions.

The two-storey property, it adds, has two bars, ladies, gents and unisex toilets, a cellar, kitchen split into three parts and three bedrooms on the first floor. The car park provides approximately 14 spaces.

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