Stella Roberts, who has owned The Hobbit Pub since 2009, has responded to breaking news of the pub’s change in ownership in an emotional open letter to fellow ‘Hobbits’.
In the letter, which she gave to Wessex Scene reporters earlier today, she cites many reasons for surrendering lease of the pub, including ‘extortionate’ rates and overheads, more pubs gaining a late licence, a change in student habits and an ‘unmanageable’ business rate, which she claims was never reduced following the 2008 financial crash ‘despite several appeals’.
She also referenced the ‘still on-going legal battle with SCZ company’ and their Pub Co’s unwillingness to budge on rent ‘despite [them]agreeing that our main customer base (university students) have stopped going out so frequently’.
These factors alongside an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to diversify their target market have, according to Roberts left her with ‘no option but to liquidise The Hobbit Southampton limited’.
In the letter, she also mentions that all the Hobbit theming and memorabilia in the pub are now up for sale if punters ‘would like a lasting reminder of Hobbiton’.
Finally, Roberts also announced that she has issued a final Hobbit Quest T-Shirt until 1st September – the day before new management takes over the pub.
Wessex Scene have provided Roberts’ open letter in full below:
On 2nd September I will, with great regret, be handing the keys of the Hobbit back to Heineken our Landlords and surrendering the lease to the pub. Despite all my efforts the extortionate rent, rates and business overheads have finally caught up with us and I have no option but to liquidise The Hobbit Southampton limited.
Believe me when I say I absolutely devastated to leave after 12 years as the pub has been a labour of love for me for many years. What has happened is no one’s fault; it is more due to changing times. All pubs now have a late license, whereas we used to be the only one. Supermarkets selling very cheap alcohol has caused a change of drinking habits amongst the students who used to swarm up and down the valley but now they seem to prefer cheaper house parties and with student fees as high as they are, we totally understand.
Our Business rates were set in 2008 before the financial crashes and despite several appeals we have never had them reduced to a more manageable level. Likewise, our rent. Despite our Pub Co agreeing that our main customer base (university students) have stopped going out so frequently they still refuse to reduce our rent and sadly our attempts to diversify and attract a different demographic have, although successful, not been enough to save us.
And of course, we must mention our long running and still on-going legal battle with the SCZ Company.
I have constantly tried to invest and keep the Hobbit Pub in good condition, but it is a very old building and the overheads to keep it up to code are crippling. I have tried but we just cannot afford to stay open any longer.
We have always tried to attract a wide audience and offer different events and we know you cannot please everyone all the time, but we have tried.
The Hobbit will be reopening under new management and I wish them the very best of luck and hope that their new ideas and their plans to refurbish the pub will give it a new lease of life.
To that end all Hobbit theming and memorabilia in the pub is now for sale so if you would like a lasting reminder of Hobbiton of old please come in and see us.
We have issued a final Hobbit Quest tee shirt which is only available until 1st September.
It has been my absolute pleasure to work at the Hobbit as long as I have and to have been able to share my passion and love of all things Hobbity.
“Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable Hobbits… I regret to announce-this is the End. I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell.”
You can see a statement by the new owner, Shooting Star’s Jack Andrews here.