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Brexit and business rates to blame for Rochester's Britannia pub shutting says landlord


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The tragic irony at the end of the Britannia's long and proud history is that for such a patriotically named pub the thing to finally sink it was Brexit.

Landlord since 2001, John Baker says trade had been falling for the past five years, with the smoking ban and cheap supermarket beer hitting the industry hard.

But the UK's decision to leave the EU meant the foreign interest in taking over the alehouse, which has been serving punters in Rochester High Street since the 1860s, were put off.

The Britannia pub has closed after 160 years, John Baker was the last landlord and was there for 18 of them
The Britannia pub has closed after 160 years, John Baker was the last landlord and was there for 18 of them

"We had a lot of interest from foreign parties who wanted to take it over as a pub or turn it into a restaurant," explained Mr Baker, adding: "They didn't know what their status would be after Brexit and couldn't take the risk."

That coupled with the rising business rates meant the boozer was struggling to stay above the surface.

"We were paying £900 in council tax and rates every month by the end," said Mr Baker, adding: "And we weren't getting much out of it. I was still paying for refuse collection."

'We had a lot of interest from foreign parties who wanted to take it over as a pub or turn it into a restaurant but they didn't know what their status would be after Brexit and couldn't take the risk.' — John Baker

The 71-year-old took over the pub in 2001 and ran it for years with partner Colin Boyes, who tragically died last summer after a battle with kidney cancer.

Mr Boyes was diagnosed in 2016 and the couple agreed Mr Baker would retire from the pub trade after his death.

When a buyer couldn't be found to take the business forward My Baker was left with little option but to apply to turn the building into flats.

Now the pub has been sold, with outline permission in place.

Mr Baker moved to Kent from Middlesbrough at the age of 18 and worked at Kemsley Paper Mill for seven years before embarking on a career behind the pumps.

For 25 years he ran The Ship before moving across the road to the Britannia.

John Baker behind the pumps at the High Street pub
John Baker behind the pumps at the High Street pub

He said: "I started at The Ship in 1977 much to the disgust of my father.

"It had a bad reputation and when he was based down here during the war it had a very different feel."

Now Mr Baker has moved to a flat overlooking the beach in Marine Parade, Folkestone, and is going to stay there for a year before deciding on his next move, which will possibly be back up north to his home town.

"You've got to love working in pubs it doesn't work unless you do. I did but by the end it just wasn't sustainable," he said.

The staff from the Britannia have either found other work or are taking some well-deserved time off.

Andy Allard had also been there since 2001 and is now taking six months off.

Mr Baker added: "I'm looking forward to going on lots of holiday. That wasn't really possible when I was running the pub and especially not when Colin got ill."

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