Punch Taverns calls time on White Lion pub team

The White Lion in the heart of St Albans city centre.

The White Lion in the heart of St Albans city centre. - Credit: The White Lion

While pubs across the district celebrate re-opening their beer gardens to customers after months of lockdown, one St Albans landlord faces the grim reality of losing his business and home.

Andrew Meredith, landlord of The White Lion in Sopwell Lane, was informed by Punch Taverns on Monday morning that they would be serving him 28 days notice in writing this week.

It was just hours before he and his team were planning on welcoming back their first customers after ensuring the beer garden was Covid-safe and weather-proof.

The White Lion management's tenancy ended shortly before lockdown, and Punch Taverns moved them to a short term option before informing them that they planned to take back full control of the pub and make major alterations to the premises.

But a planning bid to alter the garden to include four garden pods, a pergola with wood burning stove, and external bar and pizza/barbeque area with associated decking, shading and lighting was rejected by St Albans district council because of the harm it would do to the listed building and its setting.

Andrew, who also lives on the premises and will have to move out, said: "The whole team is devastated - the timing couldn't have been worse.

"We are obviously sad to have to be moving on, but more importantly we are proud to have been able to use this historic pub to contribute to the local community over the past six years."

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Sophie Banks from local PR company Loudbird said: "How heartless can a brewery be? It’s a lovely pub with brilliant management who the locals love and they’ve spent weeks getting ready to re-open."

The White Lion in Sopwell Lane, St Albans.

The White Lion in Sopwell Lane, St Albans. - Credit: Laura Bill

Local resident Suzanne, who asked us not to use her surname, said: "It's very disheartening to hear that our local pub management will be leaving. They engage with so many local charities and are very community minded.

"Another local asset lost to commerce. Is this really the way the hospitality trade has been forced to go?"

Punch Taverns managing director Andy Spencer said: "Following the expiry of the tenancy agreement last year, we have decided to transfer the pub into our management partnerships estate.

"We have been in ongoing discussions with our publicans, and they have been aware of our plans to transfer the pub into our management partnership estate for some time. We want to reassure local residents that the pub will very much retain its place at the heart of the community."