SOUTH HARTING villagers have been left ruing the departure of another set of landlords from the White Hart pub.
Angie Ryan and her husband Stephen Pratt took over the running of the pub last summer and had high hopes for the watering hole.
However, six weeks after signing a temporary tenancy with an agreement it would be extended, the rent was suddenly increased by a third by the building’s owners, Enterprise Inns.
A lengthy disagreement culminated in the couple having no choice but to leave on Wednesday, May 1.
“In the end we handed in our notice because we thought: ‘We’re not going to win this one’,” said Angie.
She added the couple just wanted a ‘fair deal’, but the company refused to budge.
“We were there for ten months,” she said.
“We had another pub in Petersfield which has been there 12 years and is very successful.
“We had no idea the big pub companies were as difficult.”
Angie said they were very sad to leave and had met some ‘lovely’ people in the village.
However she said they had been left with no choice after the way they had been treated by Enterprise Inns, which has control of around 6,000 pubs throughout the country.
“It was doing well for the first time and villagers told us that in the ten years it’s been owned by Enterprise Inns, it’s had 11 owners.
“We had read and researched and genuinely had no idea we would be the victims of their questionable ways.”
Angie said the pair were sorry to leave and they had had high hopes for the pub’s future.
“I’m grateful for the experience because we met some lovely people in the village,” she said.
“I’m very sad that we’re not able to continue operating. We wanted to live there. We were going to sell the Eden Bar business.
“We had all these plans and we’re very sad that didn’t happen.
“But I’m also very happy we were able to get out of the deal quickly and get out of there without getting too involved with the company, because they were very hard.”
She also said: “The villagers have been really good.
“I’ve said to them that in our opinion the only way it will be a successful pub is if it’s a free house or if the villagers form a consortium and buy it.
“The villagers were really happy that we were there.
“It was really nice. Everyone was really lovely in the village.
“We had a lot to look forward to.”
Since May 1 the pub has had a temporary manager.
Last summer villagers were pleased at the White Hart’s prospects.
Dave Barnard, chairman of Harting Parish Council, said at the time: “It is absolutely wonderful that the pub is open again and is being run by such lovely people and we hope they make a success of it.”
Angie is now involved with a campaign looking to get fairer deals for pubs.
For more information on the group visit www.fairdealforyourlocal.com
n Enterprise Inns, which owns the White Hart, had not responded to our request for information as the Observer went to press.