Otley Tavern freehold up for sale

Otley Pub Club has learned this week that the owner of The Otley Tavern has put the freehold of the building up for sale for offers in the region of £275k.

Here’s a description and a great 3D Tour of The Otley Tavern from our good friends at Apollo3D – https://www.apollo3d.co.uk/

The traditional pub, formerly known as The Ring o’ Bells throughout the whole of the 20th century is situated on Newmarket in the centre of the market town. It is housed in a building which was originally built as 3 individual cottages, and which is believed to date back to the 17th century, so it has great value to the history and to the architecture of the town.

Traditional public houses have been struggling for years under a variety of financial pressures. High rents, and high beer prices imposed by pub-owning businesses on their ‘tied’ houses, have been a major cause for concern for many tenants, and high beer duty, VAT and business rates have all contributed to landlords working very long hours for very little return. The final straw for many was the imposition of restrictions caused by the Corona virus Covid-19, which look like continuing over Christmas and maybe even into next spring. The current BBC2 series ‘Saving Britain’s Pubs with Tom Kerridge’ examines the financial concerns faced by so many, and looks at the business issues they are having to deal with. Since The Stew & Oyster in Otley closed its doors some months ago,  a number of pubs in Otley have seen changes of landlord, and two lovely traditional pubs – The Horse & Farrier and The Rose & Crown – are currently looking for new tenants. The closure of the Otley Tavern would be another nail in the coffin of Otley as a self-styled ‘Famous Pub Town’, and many locals would love to see it saved.

The Otley Tavern has recently had its Asset of Community Value [ACV] status accepted by Leeds City Council, lasting until October 2025. This means that now the owner has said they want to sell it, any local organisation that wants to buy it and keep it trading as a pub has just 6 weeks to let Leeds City Council know that they are putting together a bid. [The deadline is January 4th.] As with all ACV-listed properties, once a group has said they wish to be treated as a bidder, they have 6 months to put together a bid. [The deadline for that would be May 22nd 2021 – they do not have to have a bid in place by January 4th.]

Although OPC are unable to bid ourselves, we will certainly assist any potential bidder in any way possible.

The closure of some pubs doesn’t mean it’s impossible for all pubs to be successful nowadays. This has already been shown in Otley by the way the business of The Black Horse Hotel has been turned round since the freehold of that building was bought by [the owners of] Kirkstall Brewery. A succession of tenants from 2014 onwards had been unable to make the hotel a success under Enterprise Inns ‘tied’ property rental model until, like The Otley Tavern now, the freehold of the ACV-listed building was put up for sale. Furthermore, a pub that is being sold as a ‘going concern’ – where the licence and the public house business continue with the new owner – doesn’t need to go through the whole 6 months of the ACV ‘moratorium’ period. It can be sold direct to the new operator.

In the case of the Otley Tavern, local pub pressure group Otley Pub Club would like to see the freehold bought by an independent owner operator if a local community group doesn’t put forward a bid. Otley Pub Club have worked tirelessly over the past decade to try to save all the traditional pubs in town, after The Summercross, a thriving community pub on the Eastern edge of town was sold off to developers. [No development has yet taken place on the site, and the pub building has just been left to rot.] And the Pub Club has certainly had some success. At any one time there are around 20 pubs open and trading in Otley [bearing in mind temporary closures and changes of landlord]. That is more than there were ten years ago, and is an amazing number for a town of only 15,000 inhabitants. But it maintains a tradition in the market town that once had the reputation of having the most pubs per head of population for any town in England! In fact it was Otley Pub Club who coined the name #FamousPubTown that they now use in their social media outlets.

Eddie Conneely from Otley Pub Club said “ we would love to see an independent local operator buy the freehold to the Otley Tavern and turn it once again into the thriving local it was during its days as The Ring o’ Bells. It is currently one of the two main sports bars in town and it has been a successful music venue in the past, but had also begun to gain an increasing reputation for its food from ‘Stewie’s kitchen’. We are convinced that trading as a free house the new owner could choose their own way forward, and have a successful future adding once again to the varied pub scene in Otley.”

It might be that, having seen the success that Kirkstall Brewery have had with the renewed reputation of The Black Horse, another local brewery might want to buy the pub as a flagship site for the marketing of their own beers. Or even a consortium of local brewers, cider makers and distillers (of ehich there are a growing number in the area) might want to share the cost of the freehold and benefit from having their own dedicated sales outlet.

The possibilities are of course not endless! If no purchaser comes forward with a bid for the building as a going concern, and no local group announces before New Year that they want to make a bid, the building can be sold off with a view to converting it to residential or alternative retail or office accommodation. Another pub lost, but also another bit of the history of the #famouspubtown, which would be sad for the whole community.

The freehold is for sale for £275,000 – with ‘offers invited’. Details at https://property.morningadvertiser.co.uk/properties/pub/otley-tavern-otley-72092.html

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