The future of a Rotherhithe pub hangs in the balance after the landlords were served notice on their lease.
The China Hall, in Lower Road, faces closure after the freehold of the pub building was sold to a developer by owners Punch Tavern.
Michael Norris, 68, and his wife Linda, 56, have run the pub for almost 34 years and live in the rooms above.
The couple say they received a letter from developer Hamna Wakaf notifying them that their lease would not be renewed when it expires on May 28 this year and that they wish to develop the building. They announced the news on their Facebook page on December 30, telling customers that they would be hosting their final New Year’s Eve party.
Shortly after, an online petition was set up – which has already attracted more than 200 signatures.
Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, also showed his support for the publicans.: “I am pushing for a parliamentary debate on the closure of pubs and I will name the China Hall and others and name and shame some of the firms who specialise in destroying community assets,” he told the News.
Although the future of the China Hall remains uncertain, the couple are keen to make it clear that they will continue to be open for business as usual.
Their daughter, Carrie, who is also a licensee, thanked the community for their support.
“Thank you for everyone’s support over the years and to our loyal customers,” she said. “We will see this through to the end.”
A spokesperson for Punch Taverns told the News that the pub site was sold in April 2013 but did not wish to comment further.
To sign the petition, visit www.petitions24.com/signatures/savethechinahall/
China Hall boasts history spanning nearly 300 years
In 1719, the China Hall was known as the Cock & Pye Ale House before becoming the Marsh Gate in 1775.
It became the Green Man in 1777 and was owned by a man named Jonathan Oldfield, who at one time sold china.
In the summer of 1777, the pub was opened as a theatre. Whatever its use in former times, it was at that time the warehouse of a paper manufacturer.
In those days the West End often visited the entertainments of the East – which the owners took full advantage of.
They charged three shillings for customers wishing to watch a show from the boxes, two shillings for the pit, and one shilling for the gallery.
The Wonder, Love in a Village, the Comical Courtship, and the Lying Valet were among the plays performed.
The famous George Frederick Cooke was one of the actors to perform there in the season of 1778.
In that same year, the building was sadly completely destroyed by a fire and it wasn’t until 1787 that another theatre was built in its place and named the China Hall.