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Georges unlikely ever to re-open as a pub

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A pub re-possessed by its owners three years ago, is likely to be turned into five flats.

“Following the pub’s repossession in 2019 it was offered to the market on a free-of-tie lease but with no success,” says a pub expert.

John Joseph Keane is a fellow of The Association of Valuers of Licensed Property, and his opinion has been sought by the owners of Georges, March, to support a planning application for change of use.

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“The pub is freehold and unencumbered,” he says.

“Prior to that it had been held on a fully repairing and insuring lease from Wellington Pub Company.”

Mr Keane says he is not familiar with the terms of the lease of the outgoing tenant “but I have been advised that the pub was formally repossessed.

“It was subsequently offered on an unencumbered freehold basis but again with no success”

He says the pub was extensively marketed at an asking price of £295,000.

“There was a total of 26 viewings, the majority of which were for existing or other hospitality use,” he says.

“The general feedback from those who expressed an opinion, including from a representative of the local council, was that the pub needed too much work to bring it back to an operational condition.”

An estimate of the cost of simply furnishing the pub has been shown as £120,000 – excluding building works.

“I do not think George’s fits the criteria for a community owned pub, which require a community to come together around a single focal point,” says Mr Keane.

“March has an identity as a market town, but it has several pubs that are used by the residents and trade can move freely around them.

“George’s has been neither nominated nor listed as an Asset of Community Value and whilst seeking to have a pub listed as an ACV is not a guarantee that the community would go on to buy it.”

He says George’s has not traded for about three years and whilst this is not a structural survey report “it is evident that it is in a poor overall state of repair with some significant elements of dilapidation and dereliction.

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“Externally, there is evidence of rotten windows, failed guttering, a collapsing garden room to the left of the main building, rotting wooden kerbs and poor décor.

“The external signage and lighting are either damaged or has fallen off and a new signage and lighting scheme would be required.

“Most worryingly there are signs that the right-hand extension and the extension to the rear are suffering from structural failure as evidenced by the cracking to the front and side elevations and the daylight that is visible from within the roof space.”

Mr Keane adds: “The first-floor accommodation is in a particularly poor condition, particularly the right-hand section, which is in a semi-derelict state.

“It is from the rear of this section that daylight is visible from the roof space suggesting the rear extension is no longer adequately tied-in to the pre-existing structure.”

He says the marketing shows that a number of potentially interested parties thought the state of disrepair was too advanced and extensive and the cost of repair too high for the pub to be an attractive proposition.

“Figures of £200,000- plus were mentioned (to include a new inventory) but I suspect that sort of sum could prove to be a significant under-estimate and a figure nearer £300,000 would be more appropriate,” he says.

Nigel Marsh was the last landlord and ran Georges for eight years.

“I have laughed, cried, listened, been agony aunt, mourned and loved Georges and Georges people,” he said at the time of leaving.

“I have had the best 8 years ever. Spending the best quality time with all my children as they worked with me at Georges helm an experience allowing me to know their young adult minds and not just the child I helped to carve.

“I have loved and will miss the many, many personalities that made Georges a ‘Community Pub’ regular and non-regular faces that brought a silent smile as they walked through the door many of them sharing their heartaches and life’s turbulent experiences with Georges.

“I set Live Music and quality food as Georges USP yet Music & Food, in the end, was the death of us as poor attendance and increased costs resulted in Georges losing its edge based on my inability to give Georges the time it demands as I can no longer afford such luxuries.”

He also reminded people: “It was an ongoing fight throughout Georges 8 years, battles of: Eviction, arrest, re-arrest, application to remove my license and FDC Health & safety.

“Then there were noise safety notices, planning validation notices, DPPO violation, battles with the Summer Festival, battles with St Georges Fayre committee, food safety risk scores, March Pub Watch, just a few battles I fought on a regular basis, many of them carrying financial and imprisonment risks.

“Trying to run a business in March is simple too much of an uphill struggle.”

Fenland Council planning committee will hear the application for change of use in the autumn.

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