Popular Lord of the Rings themed pub, The Hobbit, has launched a crowdfunding campaign aimed at preventing its closure.
The pub is located in Portwood and is popular with students due to its themed cocktails and live music.
Landlady Stella Roberts explained on the campaign GoFundMe page that the increasing costs of running the venue could mean it will be forced to close permanently within the next eight weeks:
Over the last few years we have experienced continual increases in overheads particularly from Southampton City Council who continue to increase our Business Rates (£37,000.00 ) and whom have added on new charges (£1555.00 Late Night Levy) and our landlords who refuse to lower the ground rent despite the downturn in trade due to economic factors particularly amongst the student community and it has left us in a very difficult position financially.
The costs of running a Behemoth like the Hobbit are crippling. No matter how hard we try there is always something that needs repairing or replacing. Like another Southampton pub we have urgent repairs that need attention, particularly flooring and rain proofing issues.
She added that she had been in contact with both Southampton City Council and landlords Punch Taverns in recent months to request a reduction in rates.
While the council has offered a £1,000 reduction in charges (which the pub says is not enough), Punch Taverns have so far refused to lower the rent. The fundraising campaign has a goal of £7,500 to cover repair costs and the increased overheads.
Patrons took to social media to express their support:
— Jesse Cox (@JesseCox) August 13, 2017
We have our Drinking Liberally socials at the Hobbit and it's great – if you love the Hobbit as much as we do make sure you donate! https://t.co/RK4lXFmky4
— Soton Liberal Youth (@LibYouthSoton) August 13, 2017
Save The Hobbit Pub! Please donate or share. Great Southampton venue may close without your help. https://t.co/dcps4pZjtd
— Adam Scott Glasspool (@adamglasspool) August 13, 2017
Ms Roberts also highlighted the pub’s importance for the Southampton music and events scene:
The Hobbit has been a big part of the city’s music scene for over 25 years and is an established live music venue. Hosting events as diverse as our annual Environmental Rock Festival, Reggae Beach Parties, Metal Nights to Folk and Ska event. This year we have planned our first Live Wrestling.
However, she told the Daily Echo that income has consistently decreased since rates were set by Southampton City Council in 2008, and that students have been spending much less at the venue since tuition fees were raised to £9,000 in 2012.
‘We used to see swathes of them up the [Bevois] valley but they don’t go out any more’, she commented.
The pub has previously been embroiled in a legal battle with Hobbit rights-holders the Saul Zaentz Company, which has argued that it does not have legal rights to use the name.
The pub was saved from closure in 2012 after actors Ian Mckellen and Stephen Fry stepped into pay the license fees for using the Hobbit brand. The Hobbit is still in negotiations with Saul Zaentz over an appopriate license agreement.