EXCLUSIVE: Rotherhithe’s China Hall pub landlords to be out of their business and home ‘by Christmas Eve’

Josh Salisbury (22 November, 2018) Regeneration Business

Despite a long-running campaign to keep the pub open, landlords Michael and Linda have to leave by Christmas Eve

26729Michael and Linda Norris the landlords of the China Hall for over 35 years have been told they must leave by Christmas Eve

The landlords of a historic Rotherhithe pub have to be out of the building by Christmas Eve, despite a campaign launched last year to keep them open.

The China Hall, on Lower Road, had been involved in a long-running battle to stay open after the freehold of the building was sold by the Punch Tavern to the developers, Hamna Wakaf.

Landlords Michael and Linda Norris say they now must leave both their home and their business during the Christmas period – and they’re going to be out of work because of it.

Linda, 58, told the News: “My husband had to have his leg amputated earlier this year and we just couldn’t keep fighting it.

“They [the developers] are keeping it as a pub but I don’t know what else they’re doing.

“We did ask for a couple of weeks’ extension but they haven’t agreed to it.

“We’re going to be out of work because of it.”

The News could not find contact details for Hamna Wakaf Ltd, based in the Isle of Man, to ask them for comment.

Publicans Michael and Linda pictured with grandson Luke and daughter Carrie in February 2017

Husband Michael is most affected, said Linda.

“He’s pretty gutted really. He’s lost his leg and he’s turned 70 anyway,” she said.

“He won’t be able to find work and he’s never been one for sitting indoors. He’s more upset than all of us.”

Regulars at the pub have rallied around the couple, who have been the landlords for over 35 years.

Among them are In2Touch, a touch Rugby league based in Surrey Quays who regularly go to the historic boozer for drinks after games.

One of the league’s representatives, Gareth McCrae, said: “We always go back to the China Hall after league games, we have been for over a decade.

“It’s a bit devastating really.”

The group organised a ‘Farewell to the China Hall’ event on Wednesday (November 21) to thank the staff and Michael and Linda for “everything they’ve done for us.”

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The south-east London branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has also said it has organised a ‘farewell protest’ over the closure.

Steve Silcock, the group’s chair, told the News: “This is the latest in a string of examples that show that even popular and successful pubs can come under threat.

“As this case demonstrates, when offshore property developers buy pubs it is not because they love a pint but because they eye a redevelopment opportunity.”

The CAMRA group had previously successfully campaigned for the pub to become an “asset of community value” in February last year.

The status means the publicans must be given the opportunity to buy the freehold of the pub if it comes up for sale.

Mr and Mrs Norris have previously told the News that the developer offered them a 10-year lease for £75,000 a year but it was unaffordable, being double the amount they were paying before.

Mr Silcock added: “Whilst the pub will be closing next month it does not mean all is lost.

“Our CAMRA branch fought hard to get the China Hall listed as a community asset and finally succeeded at the third attempt. We will be looking to Southwark Council to ensure this is given due weight when assessing any future planning application.”

CAMRA’s protest starts at 2pm on Saturday December 8, and the local community are invited, said Mr Silcock.

A pub has been on the site of The China Hall for nearly 300 years and has previously been used as a theatre venue.


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