The shock news that one of Oxford’s best-known real ale pubs could remain closed permanently is spreading far beyond the city as the local branch vows to resist any move to convert the pub by owner St John’s college.
The Lamb and Flag has been in the Good Beer Guide every year since 2001 and has been regularly named as City Pub of the Year by Oxford CAMRA. It used to stock up to six real ales from a wide range of breweries and was the only pub in the city where you could find real cider.
Following a tip-off from CAMRA, the Oxford Mail ran a story that has been followed up by media outlets including the BBC and Reuters, which supplies news and video to organisations around the world.
Dave Richardson (pictured above), editor of the Oxford Drinker website and the branch’s media spokesman, said: “Reuters got in touch because there are not only many ex-students around the world who drank in the Lamb and Flag, but because the pub’s fate is seen as symptomatic of the crisis facing pubs generally as a part of ‘Old England’ is in danger of slipping away.
“We will fight on all fronts to keep this historic building as a pub, and we will object to any change of use application to the city council. It could be that St John’s has other uses in mind, with the upper floors already being student accommodation. But the college has also stated that it is open to offers to retain it as a pub, and we are already aware of interest.
“CAMRA will not be alone in fighting this closure, as the president of St John’s students’ Junior Common Room has been in touch pledging support. Permanent closure would be devastating not only for CAMRA and for students but for the many locals and visitors who support it.”
In a statement, St John’s deputy bursar Steve Elston said: “The Lamb & Flag, like many other businesses in the hospitality industry, has been hard hit by the pandemic. Despite the best efforts of the staff and looking at every option to keep it open, the trading figures of the last 12 months have meant that the pub is not currently financially viable. Also the college as a charity is not allowed to financially support a loss-making business that is not part of its core charitable objectives. Therefore, the directors of the Lamb & Flag (Oxford) Ltd have regrettably been obliged to close the pub.”
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