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Published: 14:03, 09 May 2019
| Updated: 14:44, 12 September 2019
A popular village pub is being forced to close its doors due to a "trolling campaign", its operator claims.
The Bell Inn in Minster reopened its doors last summer after being shut down for six months.
It was taken over by Cannon Leisure, who reinstated the pub with new landlords in July.
But now - less than a year later - the establishment will once again be closing.
Pub operators Cannon Leisure have told Thanet Extra, KentOnline's sister paper, the decision has been taken following a "trolling campaign by the friends of a former employee", which has included a "large number of fake reviews" and a photo of the manager being requested for use on aGuy Fawkes figure on a bonfire.
A spokesman for Cannon Leisure said: "We are sad to announce that Cannon Leisure has decided to rescind funding for The Bell Inn Minster.
"Our vision at The Bell Inn was always to be inclusive of the village, keeping the pub as a village hub it one was.
"At the request of locals, we painted the building, worked hard on the menu and laid on popular events such as a free barbecue and charity functions.
"Unfortunately, the initial support shown by the local community was quickly halted following a trolling campaign by the friends of a former employee.
"Many untruths were said of the pub, such as a vision of turning it away from what it was. Rumours included everything from a fine dining restaurant to an adult entertainment venue."
"While negative reviews from those with affiliation to a former employee would not normally have such an effect on a business alone, in such a small community these became a major issue..." - Cannon Leisure
Cannon Leisure say a "large number of fake reviews" were posted across several social media platforms, which caused a "major issue".
The spokesman added: "A large number of fake reviews were posted across many media platforms. We even had negative reviews posted for dishes that had never been served at the establishment.
"At one stage we got asked for a picture of the new manager who had moved in with his young family, in order to put it on the Guy at the local bonfire.
"The same manager was negatively targeted on social media for enjoying a meal at another local establishment while trying to integrate with the local community.
"While negative reviews from those with affiliation to a former employee would not normally have such an effect on a business alone, in such a small community these became a major issue. "
The company have apologised to staff and thanked them for their work.
"We feel sorry for and extremely grateful to the staff who have put so much work into this venture," the spokesman said. "We will continue to support them the best we are able.
"We remain grateful to those in the local community who continued to show support throughout and regret the decision we feel we have no choice but to make.
"Cannon Leisure is a fast growing business and too many of our efforts were being put into a business where the return was not forthcoming.
"We wish any new owners every success with the venue, whatever their plans are with the building."
Cannon Leisure say that a final closure date for The Bell Inn is "being negotiated".