The COVID-19 pandemic has had an undeniable effect on businesses around the world, especially smaller, locally-owned restaurants and bars. This has not only proven true for recently-opened eateries but longstanding ones as well.
In fact, a pub believed to be the oldest in England and possibly the entire U.K. recently announced it would soon cease operations. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, was reportedly established in 793 A.D. but may be even older. Even though the current structure housing the establishment was built in the 11th century, it is still an exceptionally historic place.
Originally named The Round House and Three Pigeons, the octagonal building was originally used as a pigeon house. Later, cockfighting was held there before the activity was outlawed in England, which is how the pub earned its current name back in 1800. Oliver Cromwell reportedly stayed there during the English Civil War. The pub was once certified as the oldest in England by the Guinness Book of World Records, a title retired in 2000 because claims could not be definitively verified.
But even though it has been around since the Middle Ages, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks could not withstand the loss of income brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Feb. 4, the pub’s owner announced the closure on Facebook.
“It is with great sadness that I have to announce that today, after a sustained period of extremely challenging trading conditions, YOFC Ltd has gone into administration,” pub owner Christo Tofalli wrote in the post that follows.
“Along with my team, I have tried everything to keep the pub going,” Tofalli added. “However, the past two years have been unprecedented for the hospitality industry, and have defeated all of us who have been trying our hardest to ensure this multi-award-winning pub could continue trading into the future.”
He noted that conditions were tough even before the pandemic hit, thanks to higher rates and taxes, but the business had been managing due to a five-year plan it had put into place.
“However the Covid-19 pandemic was devastating and our already tight profit margins gave us no safety net. This resulted in us being unable to meet our financial obligations as they were due, creating periods of great uncertainty and stress for all who worked for, and with, the pub,” he said. “It goes without saying I am heartbroken: this pub has been so much more than just a business to me, and I feel honoured to have played even a small part in its history. I am even more heartbroken for my incredible team and the wider Fighting Cocks family.”
Hopefully, the pub will be open again under new ownership soon. The property itself is owned by U.K. pub group Mitchells and Butlers, which told the BBC it plans to keep the business running with a new team.
“I’m working hard with the administrator to lessen the impact of our closure and get the pub back open again as soon as possible,” Tofalli stated in a comment on another post.