Landlord ‘devastated’ at plight of pub

The Imperial, Union Street, Chorley
The Imperial, Union Street, Chorley

Chorley’s longest-serving landlord says he is “devastated” at having to leave his town centre pub.

Ivan Lynas admits he is fighting a losing financial battle at The Imperial and has been forced to call time there after almost 10 years.

The popular and well-known landlord cites “various economic factors” for his agonising decision.

Ivan, 56, who was well-known as licensee at the former Harry’s Bar in Chorley, said: “My wife Natasia and I have been at the Imperial for nearly ten years and are pretty devastated we’re having to leave because we really love the pub.

“But due to various economic factors it’s now viable for us to move.”

He added: “The landscape has changed.

“I didn’t envisage six or seven micro bars opening in Chorley town centre in the space of eighteen months.

“It’s not just because their overheads are low, but they’re exempt from paying business rates because of their size.

“Other licensees I’ve spoken to in town all want a more level playing field. We find it’s unjust, it’s a sore point,”

He continued: “It’s a difficult trade to be in and drinking habits have changed. More people are drinking at home.

“We’ve been left with no alternative but to leave. There comes a time when you have to cut your losses.

“We’re very, very saddened to be leaving. It’s with a very heavy heart, but we’ve been left with no alternative. We’ve really enjoyed our time at The Imperial and were hoping to stay longer.”

The Chancellor announced in the budget last year that, from April 2017, small businesses that occupy properties with a rateable value of £12,000 or less will pay no business rates.

“They’re selling the same product as me,” said Ivan. “But I can’t get generous discounts. My hands are tied, I have to buy off the brewery.

“I’m not slagging micro bars off because I know a lot of people running them - we just want a level playing field with the business rates.

“I applied to the council for hardship relief. After eight weeks they responded and said I didn’t qualify. It was just to help me out. If I’d got that, I’d still be trading.”

Unless someone comes in and takes on The Imperial - owned by Chorley-based Trust Inns - Ivan says he will be gone this summer.

“If no other tenant comes in to replace us before August 8, we’ll leave on August 8,” he said. “We’ve had some really good times, with some lovely customers.

“I plan to stay in the trade and hopefully remain in the area. I’ve no plans to leave Chorley. I hope I can find a job in the town centre where I can work for someone.

“I’m the longest-serving licensee in the town - since 1985. I started at Harry’s Bar on June 6, 1985, the first night.”

Harry’s Bar, St George’s Street, went on to become an iconic venue for young people and home to the town’s live music scene.

But the bar began to lose money and after 22 years it closed in June 2007.

Hundreds packed into the pub on closing night, and crowds outside spilled onto the road as a farewell party got into full swing.

Chorley Council pointed out that councils do not set business rates or small business rate relief, but only administer it.

It added that The Imperial would qualify for the £1,000 rate relief for pubs announced by the Chancellor in the spring budget and as micro-pubs occupy small premises they are entitled to the small business rate relief.

It said; “With regards to the hardship relief, this is only given out in rare circumstances where there would be a significant impact on local people for example the loss of a significant amount of jobs.”