One of England’s oldest pubs ‘fighting for survival’ after 1,200 years due to cost crisis

The St Albans based pub has survived the three wars, 17 recessions, two World Wars and five pandemics

Aisha Rimi
Monday 05 September 2022 08:02 BST

Related: Huge crowd of England fans line the street as they queue for London pub

One of England’s oldest pubs that has been serving customers for more than 1,200 years is “fighting for survival” as the cost of living crisis threatens to cripple businesses around the country.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans, Hertfordshire, claims to have been in business since AD793 – before England was united under one monarch.

But despite surviving the English Civil War, 17 recessions, two world wars and five pandemics, including the Black Death and Covid, the historic boozer is facing ruin due to spiralling energy costs.

The pub is one many across the country facing soaring costs and customers with less money to spend

The alehouse is one of many battling to stay in business as they face the combined blows of the cost of living and energy price crises, made worse since rocketing gas prices around the world – that increased further after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

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Recent research warned that up to three-in-four of Britain’s watering holes are at risk of closing this winter due to rising costs.

Ronan Gaffney, general manager of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, said: “It’s outrageously more expensive.

“It’s not like at home where you can turn everything off but the fridge and freezer, we’ve got certain things that need to stay on for health and safety and general upkeep.

“And our light bill is 10 times more than what it is in a house because at home you can turn off all the lights except the one you’re in. But you can’t do that in a pub.

“So we don’t have a choice, we can’t really cut down on energy bills but we are being charged double the amount.”

The pub is one of around 10 claiming to be the oldest in England

Now with winter on its way, Mr Gaffney warned pubs will see extra costs, and for many, fewer customers.

He added: “Winter for a lot of pubs, like my own, is the quiet season.

“If pubs don’t have an infrastructure or financial backing then I can imagine that a lot of them will struggle.”

When the business was originally established in the 8th century it was known as The Round House, but there is no record of it being licensed as a public house under that name.

The first known reference to it being an alehouse is in 1756 when it appears to be trading as The Three Pigeons.

Business leaders from across the industry have signed an open letter to the government calling for urgent help

Around 1800 its name was changed to the Fighting Cocks, thought to be a reference to the sport of cock fighting that was popular at the time and which may have taken place in the main bar area. It is one of around 10 pubs laying claim to being the oldest in England.

Mr Gaffney said it’s going to be a challenging time for pubs across the UK and it is a problem that can only be solved by those in authority.

He called on the government to take action as the energy cap is due to be increased again, squeezing households and businesses even further.

The publican added: “Pubs have done all they can since the start of the pandemic. They have been up in arms for the last three years and nothing has been done about it.

“The only thing to do now is to keep appealing to the government as it’s not just pubs that have been messed around, it is everyone.”

Pubs have ‘weathered the storm’ of Covid, but now face closures and job cuts

A leisure industry leader warned earlier this week that pubs and breweries are facing a disaster “more devastating than the pandemic”.

Business leaders from across the industry have signed an open letter to the government and Tory leadership candidates calling for urgent help before it’s too late.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, believes that pubs that “weathered the storm” of Covid now face closures and job cuts.

She said: “Soaring energy bills are forcing publicans to make tough choices, with many already reducing opening hours to remain viable. It could have a worse impact than the pandemic.

“Publicans are between a rock and a hard place. They are trying to cover their costs, but they also have customers who are tightening their belts. It’s completely unsustainable.”

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