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Final whistle? Rent row puts Arsenal pub on brink

Holloway venue where Gunners fans enjoy matchday pint faces huge bills as coronavirus lockdown goes on

01 May, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

The Tollington Arms pub is popular with Arsenal fans but faces an uncertain future as the Covid-19 lockdown – and the suspension of the football season – continues

THE owner of a popular Arsenal matchday pub says it is on the brink of collapse due to rent bills while the bar is closed during the coronavirus lockdown.

Martin Whelan, who runs the Tollington Arms in Holloway, has accused his landlords of being “on another planet” after they allegedly refused his solicitor’s request for a three-month rent waiver.

The pub does not qualify for the government’s grant scheme because its rateable value is too large and so Mr Whelan has no income with which he can pay the £131,700 annual rent which equates to £10,975 per calendar month in advance.

He told the Tribune: “I haven’t asked them to cancel rent, just to defer to see where we are.

“But they are not accepting this. It’s ridiculous.”

Mr Whelan, who has run pubs for more than 40 years, added: ”We all know pubs will not open before September. So in the next two quarters I will have to pay them over £60,000, with an empty pub and no revenue. I don’t know what planet these guys are on, but it’s not Earth.”

Mr Whelan previously ran the Gunners Pub in Blackstock Road for around 20 years. He said: “Without someone speaking up for the working men and women of this country we are all going to go to the floor. All they think is: It is the first of the month and I want my rent.”

A “No Pub No Rent” slogan has been adopted by many publicans across the country as landlords, including some of the big pub chains, have tried to continue to charge the same rents.

Mr Whelan, 59, said. “There can’t be many pubs that are eligible for the government scheme.

“It’s really shocking. The government has to wake up and listen to the guys who are on the ground experiencing this.”

The government has indicated that pubs and bars will be one of the last sectors of the economy to reopen as they are among the most difficult places in which to maintain social distances.

And there are fears in the industry that even when restrictions are lifted it will take a long time before large numbers of people are prepared to go out for a drink again.

With football also looking set to kick off again behind closed doors, pubs that rely on match day trade close to stadiums are taking another hit. Chris Morgan-Giles, a spokesman for Tollington Arms freeholders, which owns the pub building, said: “Government guidelines are for tenants to pay rent if they can and that is all we ask of anyone.

“We are a relatively small property investment company with our own financial obligations to meet, and we rely upon rental income to do that. So we are finding this situation just as challenging as anyone else.”

He added: “I am aware that this particular person is in a very difficult position, falling between government stools of support, and we hope that the government is able to fill these gaps in the support cover as soon as possible.”

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