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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Campaign to save Carlisle pub from closure

A campaign is underway to save an historic Carlisle pub under threat of closure.

The Magpie pub Carlisle photo
The Magpie

The Magpie in Victoria Road, Botcherby, will shut next month unless a buyer is found.

But Robert Betton, a city and county councillor for the area, has started a petition calling for it to be run as a community venture along similar lines to the Old Crown at Hesket Newmarket.

He wants Carlisle City Council to buy the 1930s pub, which was built under the city’s state-management scheme and designed by its celebrated architect Harry Redfern.

Mr Betton said: “We are going to do whatever it takes to save the Magpie. It’s an important building. The council could buy it and let the community run it.”

The pub is owned by the Oakwell Brewery in Barnsley. It announced earlier this month that it was selling all 30 of its pubs in an attempt to stem mounting losses.

The Magpie will shut at close of business on Sunday June 2 unless a buyer comes forward.

It is being sold as a going concern with an asking price of £425,000.

Lynne Booth, managing director of Oakwell Brewery, said: “There has been interest in the Magpie but no firm offers. It is still possible it could be reprieved.”

She said the decision to sell the pubs was a financial one.

She added: “Like everybody else we are feeling the pinch. Sales aren’t too good and our pubs are making losses. Pubs are just declining. Supermarkets have taken over the trade.”

The brewery spent £400,000 on a sympathetic refurbishment three years ago.

The work brought an award from English Heritage but not the required upturn in business.

Mrs Booth said: “It’s not done what we thought it would. It’s heart-breaking because it is such a beautiful place. It’s like a country pub in the city. So much love and care has gone into it.”

The Magpie also has a bowling green, Grade-II listed, which has competitions in the summer.

Regulars are dismayed at the prospect of closure.

Norman Mark, 66, of Freshfield Court, Botcherby, has been a customer there since he was a teenager.

He said: “I’m in every day. There’s nowhere else to drink around here. We’ll have to go into town.”

Dave Collins, 73, also of Freshfield Court, said: “I’m sad that it’s closing. It’s a community pub that serves a good pint and it’s cheap – £2.10. They’ve tried everything but they can’t seem to make it pay.”

And Paul Johnston, 66, added: “I’ve been coming here for 44 years. It’s not looking good. I think the only way to save it is if everybody in the community clubbed together to buy it.”

Manager Anthony Evans and his partner Sharon Gibson took over a year ago. They have been working to rejuvenate the Magpie as a community hub.

They are hosting a family fun day on Sunday May 26 to raise money for Botcherby’s Little Kickers children’s football team. And there are plans to give the Magpie a grand send off on Saturday June 1.

Relief manager Claire Armstrong is combining her 40th birthday celebrations, and those of her children, Ellis, Nathan and Holly, with a farewell party for the pub.

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