Celebrities, including comedians Harry Enfield and Alexander Armstrong, have lined up to support the tenants of the Engineer pub in Primrose Hill, London, after it emerged that landlord Mitchells & Butlers has decided not to renew their lease.
Abigail Osborne and Tamsin Olivier took over the pub in 1994 and in 2001/2002 they were granted a 10-year lease extension, which expires at the end of this year.
M&B served notice last October of its intention to take possession and occupation of the Engineer, with a view to making it a managed house.
Osborne and Olivier - the daughter of Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright - have grown the annual revenues of the Engineer from around £100,000 to £1m, according to the Financial Times.
M&B is paid £101,000 in rent and in excess of £101,000 in beer, but it receives no income from the food and wine sold. An offer to negotiate a new lease that gave the company a percentage of those revenue streams was refused.
Enfield, a regular at the pub, said the Engineer was "lousy" before the two women took over and has joined forces with local businesswoman Jane Robbins to launch a campaign supporting their fight to stay at the pub.
"Without their personal input and the dedication of their team, I'm certain there will be a slow and inevitable decline in standards and staff until it returns to the lousy pub it used to be.
"The landlords think they can swipe the profits and keep the magic, but the magic is Tamsin, Abi and their team," he said.
But a spokesman for M&B, which counts Harvester, Toby Carvery and All Bar One in its portfolio of brands, said the company intends to continue running it as a "unique, warm and welcoming place" when the current lease expires in October this year.
He said: "Although we do run a number of very successful restaurant brands, we are also proud to own and run well many iconic and highly individual pubs across London, such as the Old Bull & Bush and the Spaniards in Hampstead and the Washington in Belsize Park.
"We have no intention of converting The Engineer to any sort of chain or branded operation."
By Janie Stamford
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