After 12 centuries, yes you read that right, after 1200 years in operation the oldest pub in England is closing its doors.
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St. Albans, just north of London, alleges to have been in business since 793 AD. If that’s true, it means the establishment survived the Black Death plague that ravaged Europe.
Now it has closed its doors “after a sustained period of extremely challenging trading conditions,” according to a statement from landlord Christo Tofalli, who posted the news of the ancient pub’s demise on its Facebook page.
The owner blames COVID-19 for making conditions too difficult to remain open. He admits things were getting tough even before the pandemic, though. The main structure of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks was built in the 11th Century and was originally used as a pigeon house, according to the local tourist board. But it dates back to the 8th Century.
“Cock fighting took place in the main bar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hence the name of the pub,” the website said.
Guinness previously recognized the pub as the oldest in England. The company retired the title in 2000 when it determined records that old are impossible to verify.
“Along with my team, I have tried everything to keep the pub going,” Tofalli said. “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.”
Tofalli thanked pub staff, regulars, and visitors, saying he was heartbroken for the Fighting Cocks family and honored to have played “even a small part in its history.”
While the pub may be of special historic status, it’s far from the only one that has been forced to shut its doors during the pandemic.
Nearly 10,000 licensed premises (including pubs, clubs, and restaurants) permanently closed in 2020, SkyNews reported. That represents a 175% rise in net closures compared with the previous year.
Tofalli told The Washington Post that this past Christmas was his “last chance” to save the pub. Although public health measures didn’t prevent pubs from operating, the omicron surge kept enough people home to prevent it from making up its shortfall.
There appears to be hope on the horizon, however.
Tofalli said he was working with brewery owners Mitchells & Butlers “to lessen the impact” of the pub’s closure. And a spokesperson for the company told CNN that it is working to reopen it.
“We can confirm that sadly our tenants at Ye Old Fighting Cocks have appointed administrators but can reassure locals that this is not the end for the pub,” they said in a statement. “We are currently exploring all opportunities for the site’s future and hope to reopen the pub under new management as soon as possible.”