World

England’s oldest pub, possibly over 1,200-years-old, shuts doors due to COVID-19 hardships

The Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub in St. Albans, England opened around 793. It is near the ruins of an ancient Roman city, which was formed well before the United Kingdom. This watering hole has survived civil and world wars, famine and the spread of the bubonic plague.

Hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic mean the pub, which Guinness World Records has reportedly called England’s oldest, though bars have contested that title, is shutting its doors.

Christo Tofalli, who took over the lease in 2012, told The Washington Post that the pandemic and the government’s public health restrictions squeezed his business until he could no longer meet its financial requirements.

Its insolvency leaves Mitchells & Butlers, which owns the pub, open to seeking new management of the possibly more-than-1,200-year-old business.

The Christmas season, Tofalli said, was his “last chance” to rescue the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which, like much of the hospitality industry, was hit particularly hard by lockdowns, social distancing and capacity restrictions imposed by the government to stop the spread of the virus.

Before the pandemic, “we weren’t exactly flush — but I don’t think anybody was,” Tofalli said. But he and his staff fought to make it a success. “It was a great, award-winning pub; it’s the oldest pub in the country. … I tried everything. I’m still trying.”

“Before the pandemic hit, the escalating business rates and taxations we were managing meant trading conditions were extremely tough,” Tofalli wrote in announcing the news, “but we were able to survive and were following an exciting five-year plan and were hopeful for the future.”

“However the Covid-19 pandemic was devastating and our already tight profit margins gave us no safety net,” he wrote.

Mitchells & Butlers, one of the largest operators of restaurants, bars and pubs in Britain, said: “We can confirm that sadly our tenants at Ye Old Fighting Cocks have appointed administrators [for the insolvency process] but can reassure locals that this is not the end for the pub.”

Tofalli said he appreciates the messages of support from local patrons and others in recent days. “The first thing people do is they’re either crying, they’re gutted personally for me or the pub or the dream or the heritage or the history, then … there’s that little pause and they all say, ‘But do you remember that time … ?’” Tofalli said, “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but to be fair, I’ve been doing both.”

A fundraiser for the pub on GoFundMe had raised 1,390 pounds, or about $1,877, by Monday afternoon. A description of the campaign, which is entitled “Save Ye Olde Fighting Cocks!” read: “I’ve spent countless nights here with friends, family and even met my fiancé here. It’s an irreplaceable piece of history that must be saved.”

Tofalli said it needs a benefactor to invest in it for the long run, making it accessible for people with disabilities and upgrading the structure, for example, so that it survives “for the next thousand years.”

ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH 

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: HERTFORDSHIREMERCURY.CO.UK

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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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