THE owners of Farnborough’s Tumbledown Dick pub has rejected claims it is responsible for the popular music venue staying shut.
Bride Hall, the property development company that bought the now-derelict pub’s freehold in 2004, said it was not in the business of running pubs.
The Tumbledown Dick, which punters described as ‘the centre of the Farnborough music scene’, closed in February 2008 after health inspectors found asbestos there. It has been empty ever since.
A spokesman for the Spirit Group, which leases the building and ran the pub, previously told the News & Mail it was not at fault because it had been trying to talk to Bride Hall about what to do.
“Despite numerous attempts to have discussions with the landlord regarding the future these discussions have not yet come to fruition,” the statement said.
But Roger Gorham, Bride Hall’s director, said the company was not responsible for the building’s closure.
The company was in the property development business and not running pubs, he said.
He added: “They (The Spirit Group) provide the pub and the entertainment and we provide the bricks and mortar.”
He said Bride Hall and the Spirit Group had discussed what could happen in May last year and the building’s owners said it could not do anything to help.
He said there were no negotiations at present and he was not aware of “any dialogue” in May this year, when the Spirit Group said there were.
After this was put to the Spirit Group, its spokesman issued another statement,saying: “We continue to review the future of the site and are currently looking at its suitability for one of our concepts.”
Bride Hall bought the pub’s freehold for £1.7m in 2004.
The developers have been involved in Farnborough before.
It lists the Firgrove Parade shops and flats as a ‘completed’ project in its online portfolio.
The Spirit Group, which runs 8,300 pubs across the country, has a 26-year lease on the building, from 1996 to 2022.
In its time, the pub hosted bands such as The Jam, Hundred Reasons and Reuben.
The sudden closure happened after a snap inspection by environmental health officers from Rushmoor Borough Council.
They found problems with a poor state of cleanliness and asbestos in a cellar door.
Steel shutters have been placed over the doors and windows of the venue since it closed.
The pub was expected to reopen within months of closure. Twenty months later, it is still closed.
Mr Gorham said: “I understand people are frustrated, as I would be if a pub local to me were closed for this long.”
Many former punters are angry for the Spirit Group for promising last year a £1million refurbishment.
The company said this would be within “six to nine months” of closure but it has still not happened.
An online petition to reopen the venue, started by former staff member Rose Whittaker, currently has 1,305 signatures.
The council is still monitoring the condition of the building to be sure it is safe.
The council’s powers are limited – it cannot force any work to be done unless the building becomes dangerously dilapidated or unsafe.