Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 16:19 UK

Publican in coffin hunger strike

Colm Powell
Mr Powell is going on hunger strike until 8 October

A pub landlord from Kent is staging a hunger strike in a coffin to highlight the "exorbitant" charges he claims are killing the pub trade.

Colm Powell, 44, who faces losing the lease to three pubs in Tonbridge, blames the company that owns them for increasing rent and beer prices.

Enterprise Inns, which has obtained permission to end his lease, said he broke conditions set out in agreements.

Mr Powell, from Dublin, said he was "prepared to die" for his cause.

To highlight his plight, he has been lying in an oak coffin at the Punch and Judy, which won Kent Pub of the Year in 1996.

Enterprise Inns was granted possession of the business, along with Mr Powell's other two pubs in Tonbridge, at a court hearing last week.

Our industry is being driven by greedy people while landlords live on the breadline
Colm Powell

In a statement it said: "We understand a separate unsuccessful business venture unrelated to Enterprise Inns may have contributed to Mr Powell's difficulties.

"That said, we have sought to help Mr Powell with deferred payment terms, special discounts, a late licence application and a permanent rent reduction.

"Despite this help, Mr Powell continued to breach the terms of his agreements, eventually leaving us with no alternative but to seek possession of the pubs involved."

Mr Powell, who has set up a website where people can sign a "book of condolence", said he enjoyed a successful career as a landlord for more than 15 years until Enterprise Inns bought the pubs from Whitbread five years ago.

'Exorbitant rent'

The 44-year-old, who is also tenant at the Ivy House and Station House, said: "What is happening to the pub industry is like what happened to farmers when foot-and-mouth came along.

"Our industry is being driven by greedy people while landlords live on the breadline."

The hunger strike, which began on Monday, is planned to continue until 8 October when he is due to be served with an eviction notice by Enterprise Inns, he said.

In an open letter to Enterprise Inns, Mr Powell said he was taking what he considered to be the last action open to him.

He wrote: "The pub trade has changed for the worse since companies such as yours have got involved in it.

"There's the exorbitant rent and the steep mark-up on tied beers, which take at least 55% of my potential profit out of the business."

Enterprise Inns owns more than 7,000 pubs in England and Wales.




SEE ALSO
Pub industry hit by rising costs
08 Sep 08 |  Business

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